Friday, July 8, 2011

The Passing of an Era

Did you watch the final launch of a space shuttle?  It was an almost flawless launch--only one brief stop of the countdown.  Spectacular, even after 30 years!

As I watched, I reflected on what an integral part of my life space exploration and travel has been.  You see, I grew up in Texas City, Texas.  Less than 20 miles from the Johnson Space Center.  I remember the race against the Russians to be the first to launch a man into space and the palpable disappointment when Yuri Gagarin blasted off on April 12, 1961.  (Coincidentally, Tommy's 9th birthday.)  Alan Shepard followed on May 5, 1961.  Sooooo close.  Can you believe that was 50 years ago?

The space program progressed from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo missions.  Each time there was a launch, our school teachers would bring a television to class so we could watch.  Small--probably 12" screens--with a grainy, black and white picture.  The rabbit ears had to be positioned just so in order for us to even get that.  Yet, the entire class would be riveted to the picture.  I was in the second grade when John Glenn blasted off the first time.  History in the making.  And, I got to watch!

We took several field trips to see "Mission Control" in my later years of elementary school.  I doubt I was as impressed as I should have been.  Mostly it was a day out of the classroom.  Although it was cool when the lights that tracked a space flight's path were turned on for us. Yet, every time I see mission control featured in a movie or a television program, it takes me back.  How many people can say they've actually been there?

Where you were July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong took "one small step for mankind; one giant leap for mankind"?  I was sitting in my boyfriend's family room once again riveted to the television (this time a color picture).  Only eight years from the first manned launch to putting a man on the moon.  Wow!

Before he reported for active duty with the Air Force, Tommy's spent a year working for McDonnell Douglas designing crew procedures for the space shuttle.  That was in 1974.  Just seven years later, Space Shuttle Columbia launched.  April 12, 1981.  We were living in Utah, home of Thiokol (now ATK) who makes the solid rocket boosters used to launch the shuttle into orbit.  Once again riveted to the television and living near an integral part of the program.

Let's not forget the Hubble telescope or the twin Mars exploration rovers or the Cassini spacecraft that orbited Saturn.  Between 1998 and 2000, three separate launches carried space station modules into space to later be connected so men could live there.  Enormous technological advances have come as a result of the space program.  I read somewhere that most watches today have more computer technology in them than the first space modules did.

And now, it's over.  Johnson Space Center employees 3,000 scientists, engineers, and support staff.  Many will lose their jobs.  A high school friend who has worked at NASA for 23 years said today was a very emoi\tional day.  She just felt empty.  Layoff notices are expected at ATK as well.  How sad.

Hopefully, this won't be the end of our space exploration.  As my friend said, "the sky's the limit."  I hope we find a way to continue to explore the final frontier--to continue "to go where no one has gone before."

Sunday, July 3, 2011


July 4th has become my second favorite holiday (Christmas is the first in case you wondered).  Hometown parades, picnics, the first homemade ice cream of the season, fellowship with friends, city fireworks shows, and great colors to decorate around.  OK, that last one is pretty lame. But, I do enjoy the colors on my white porch railing; and it was cool to see how many people dressed in some combination of red, white, and blue for church today.

And how cool to see flags flying on homes and businesses around town!  What a reminder of the freedoms we enjoy in this great country--to speak our mind, to worship as we desire, to bear arms, just to name a few.  In the busyness of the day, let's not forget those who fought to make sure we had--and continue to enjoy--those freedoms.  They were bought at a great price.

There is another freedom we should remember and for which we should be especially thankful.  Not just on July 4th but year round.  That is freedom from an eternity in hell.  That, too, comes at a great price.  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NLT)

We sang Stuart Townsend's, "How Deep the Father's Love for Us" in church this morning.  It is a favorite of mine.  These verses make me cry every time we sing it.

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders.
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers.

It was my sin that held Him there,
Until it was accomplished.
His dying breath has brought me life,
I know that it is finished.

Not the nails, but my sin held Christ on the cross!  He willingly endured the most horrible of deaths so that I might enjoy eternity in heaven.  Amazing grace and costly freedom, indeed.