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  • The Beginning: Enterprise - "To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before"
    Posted by Wayne LaBar 9:38 PM on Jul 03, 2011

    The Beginning of the End

    This week marks the final Space Shuttle mission, STS-135. For someone like myself, while I can remember 1969 and the first of the Apollo Moon landings, the Shuttle has been the vehicle that represented our space endeavors for my entire life since 1976. Now with only this week to go, I have been given the opportunity to reflect back on what has been over thirty five years of inspiration, frustration, excitement and tragedy.

    For the first half of my adult life (if you can call being an obsessed space enthusiast teenager an adult), the shuttle program directly touched my personal life and set me on a course that moved me from aerospace engineering to educating the general public about science and technology.  In some ways these will be my final respects to what has been an incredible journey with an uncertain future.

    I remember the first shuttle, the Enterprise with great fondness. It was 1976, and I was just beginning eighth grade and little did I know the impact the shuttle would have on me so quickly. The next few years as I finished grade school and passed through high school were all done in an atmosphere and climate that screamed to me about humanity’s next frontier: space.

    blog post photo
    photo credit: NASA

    The first major high point was seeing the first shuttle revealed in September of 1976, named the “Enterprise.” For me the fact that NASA had linked itself to my personal heroes – Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock – was incredible. It seemed that our space program was striving to reach new planets and stars, to become a center piece of our daily lives. NASA arranged to have many of the stars on hand as the ship rolled out for the first time.

    blog post photo
    photo credit: NASA

    I can remember back then getting my NASA Facts NF-81 Shuttle poster and putting it on my bedroom wall. (Ironically, today this poster has an important cameo role in the film Super 8 – a sci-fi homage to Steven Spielberg’s and J.J. Abrams childhood’s personal inspiration). Here is the original illustration used for the poster.

    blog post photo
    photo credit: NASA

    Following on its heels was 1977, a year that just continued the theme. That summer, before high school, a little film called Star Wars opened.  It’s effects, ordinary by today’s standards, knocked the socks off of every 13 and 14 year old.  It made space travel real. Then two months later the Enterprise flew or glided over the desert at Edwards Air Force Base. Suddenly the idea of ships that could travel from the planet to space and back again were not just  in the movies but a part of our real world. 

    blog post photo
    photo credit: NASA

    Looking back on these early years of the Space Shuttle, they were filled with anticipation and dreams. They hinted at the promise that the Shuttle represented, the idea of going into space in the same way they do in the movies – on a ship that was used over and over, with a crew, with a never ending story; a tale filled with adventure, risk and exploration. Also I feel some sympathy for the Enterprise herself. With such a storied name, it seems wrong that she never made it into space.  That said, the Enterprise fulfilled two great missions – first the important testing she was designed for and secondly to stoke the imaginations of so many people including this young teenager back in the 1970’s.

    Tags: STS, Shuttle, Enterprise, os99

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