Tears at the Last Shuttle Launch

On Friday, the Mr. and I had an amazing experience we will not soon forget. We saw the final shuttle launch and was moving in ways I never expected.


The trip started on a bad note. The night before lots of lighting in the area had not been a good sign, nor had the storm we drove through that morning. Mission control was estimating a 70% chance of a delay. We pushed with our plans - complete with camping chair, sun screen and a bus ride that started a 4:00 am to get to the Nasa visitor center very early. I *thought* I had purchased tickets to see the shuttle taking off but I had arrived at the Nasa visitor center to find out you can't actually see the launchpad at all. We would only see the shuttle as it cleared a row of trees in the distance. My dreams of seeing the launch in the way I imagined were fading fast.


But we were there so we plopped ourselves down along with the rest of the crowds and looked skyward. The feeling in the air was definitely tense as we all waited. Would it go or no?


Mr. L was smart enough to bring a little radio with him so we could hear mission control. With a few minutes to launch time we each took an earbud and listened as the various leads gave their go, no-go decisions. After the full round checks and some more tense moments of wonder, all was a go. The crowd cheered.



I'm not sure what came over me but I felt tears coming to my eyes. I'm not a particularily patriotic person but hearing that in person, feeling the excitement of the crowd and being in a position were I was about to watch something I never dreamed I'd witness all sort of ovewelmed me. Finally as the seconds counted down, a man behind me turned to a stranger and said with awe "I've waited my whole life for this.". That was it - full on tears were coming now. As I pulled my sunglasses down and wondered what was wrong me, I turned around and saw quite a lot of the crowd were wiping away their own tears.



The countdown started soon afterward and we all waited with cameras overhead and a feeling of tense excitement as the engines were started and the shuttle took its last blast into the air. The crowd cheered as we saw it clear the trees and head straight up into the cloud cover. It was only a few moments before the shuttle disappeared but it was amazing. Then the sounds of the blast came our way, capping off a few minutes of pure joy.


I have no idea why I was so taken with it. To be honest, I came in hopes of taking a few good photos and being done with it but it was a magical few minutes where I got totally caught up in the wonder of it all and the sadness of the ending of an era. And despite not getting the greatest photos or having the most perfect view, it was still a great experience. There is a platitude in there somewhere :)

What were your reactions to the shuttle launch?


  1. This brings me to tears to and that mans's comment is perfect. Foe so many space is such a big dream. I hope the program comes back. Wonderful post.

  2. What an amazing experience.  Thanks for sharing your pics!

  3. That is incredible.  A friend of mine had tix but couldn't go because his wife is preggo and insurance won't cover travel within 6 weeks or something crazy.

    It might not be patriotism that you are feeling - maybe it is about pursuing your dreams and accomplishing them. Think about our generation - so many people grew up dreaming of becoming an astronaut! It is sad that the program is over...you are very lucky to have witnessed the last launch!

  4. You truly got to witness history close-up and personal.  The space shuttle represents so much more than just an event. It is about exploring what life is all about here and what may lie beyond and now it will stop, hopefully only for awhile until NASA comes up with a new and better way to travel into Space.    I think that is what touched you so.  Love your photos.
    My best- Diane

  5. I've never had a thing for the whole space thing, but my Mom has. She used to iron while watching the NASA station. A few years ago we were at the beach (about 100 miles north of the launch pad) and knew it was set to go off. We were able to see it go up right from our beach chairs. It was pretty incredible even at that distance. 

  6. The Countess of Nassau County9:35 AM

    This bothered me a lot because for me it symbolized our countries apparent disinterest in creating and exploring in favor of consuming and aquiring. 

    Many of the greatest human qualities; perseverence, intelligence, creativity, teamwork, humility, and the strength to take a risk are embodied in the NASA program.  I can only hope something inspiring is in the NASA pipeline. 

  7. C_carpanini9:39 AM

    Hi, I would of been exactly the same and Im from the UK lol, you saw history in the making! I visited Kennedy Space Centre about 11 years ago when a launch was due, we werent there on the day but even mikes away you could hear and feel it, I have some pics to prove to my boys we saw it! Felt v privilegd Claire x

  8. Houseography9:45 AM

    I saw one with my parents in high school. At that time, we thought we would be going to space forever. I guess some people will but not on our dime :)

  9. Guest9:47 AM

    I'm not trying to be rude... I'm really not.  But how could you live in the wonderful land of America and say you are "not a patriotic person"?  I've been reading your blog for awhile and while I enjoy it at times... to be perfectly honest, this was the final comment that irked me.  You act smug and rude half the time as though your very small world in which you live near NYC is perfect... b/c you are there.  Your comments about many things have been uncalled for and the "patriotic" comment was the top of the list.  

    And as a small side note, for future reference... you have very poor grammar (and have had for many of your blog posts).  You might want to go back and review basic writing and grammar skills before you continue writing.

  10. What a moving experience....  and truly once in a lifetime.  

  11. I didn't watch the shuttle launch, but i was out Friday morning and one of the radio stations here in Toronto was talking to a local man via phone, who was a cancer survivor. NASA had invited him and his son out to watch the shuttle launch, and my understanding was that they had given him special access to watch it in a special area. It was quite a great story to hear about what this man and his son were sharing... glad you were able to see it and enjoy it! :)

  12. Monica10:36 AM

    Stephanie, I've been reading and enjoying your blog for quite awhile and am finally getting around to commenting.  Loved this post and your heartfelt response to what you witnessed.  Please don't allow any "guests" to discourage you from continuing to share your thoughts, travels, glimpses of home ... I find your blog inspiring and beautiful and just plain fun to read.  How anyone could say you are smug and rude is really beyond me.  Honest, generous, creative and kind hearted are the qualities I see in your work.  Thank you for sharing with all of us!

  13. MrsLimestone10:45 AM

    If this is your version of not being rude, I would hate to read what you have to say when that is your intention. I have no clue what you are referring to when you indicate I make uncalled for comments but I can only respond that this is a blog about my experiences and if that or my writing style upsets you so much, it's very easy to stay away. It seems to me your entire intention is to be rude to me for no reason whatsoever.

  14. MrsLimestone10:52 AM

    Thanks Monica. I really appreciate that.

  15. Bontempsbeignet11:28 AM

    I know exactly how you feel! I had never watched a live launch until the last big one. I didn't expcet to be so moved. I was totally overcome with excitement and awe. It was amazing.

  16. Kelley E Evans11:34 AM

    We too were there! We took my 1 yr old son to witness history. I also found myself overcome with emotion! Cried like a baby and I can't fully explain why part pride, part accomplishment for our Americans up there, part overwhelmed with the beauty of the actual launch. I looked over at my husband and he said "things that make you proud to be an American." and it is so true.

    Someone commented on the failure of our country by joining other countries to do our space missions. We had the honor of an astronaut to come speak on our bus and he encouraged us to support our NASA program and join with them in their unity with others to make it all work. It was moving and thought provoking.

  17. MrsLimestone11:47 AM

    Im glad I'm not the only sap. Such a moving experience. Also good to point out that this is not the end of NASA - they do much more than shuttle launches.

  18. Nichola12:07 PM

    OMG. amazing. I got a tingle down my spine just looking at the photos. It must have been such an amazing experience and atmosphere. Lucky you. x

  19. Kimberly12:26 PM

    How awesome that you had that experience.  I went with my Mom and brothers when I was in the fifth grade.  It was an Apollo launch and back then the teachers would stop what they were doing and turn on a tv to watch.   The work and research from our space program has changed our lives in many ways whether it's technology, products we use daily and take for granted, ect.   There were lives lost in the journey to understand space.   No wonder you felt moved.  My biggest concern is that we as a country continue that spirit of intellectualism and curiosity with that can do tude'.   There is no definition of what makes one patriotic.  I prefer to think of as moments like you experienced.  It's definitely not wrapping yourself in a flag or dressing like Uncle Sam and it most assuredly is not judgemental and cowardly,
    Best Regards and thanks for the pictures.

  20. Peggy Gansberg12:30 PM

    Touching. Thanks for posting the pics too

  21. anonymous12:55 PM

    What a sweet post. Just maybe you are a weensy bit patriotic after all :-)

    I surprised myself at the first major league baseball game I went to (where they dragged me kicking and screaming because I literally detest sports - ha). But within the first few minutes after being seated, a world-famous player made his lifetime record-breaking home run, fireworks went off, patriotic songs were played, the crowd went wild and I just bawled - ha. I have never seen a more all-American pie moment in my life and it just got me 'right there.' Thanks for sharing your launch story!

  22. Christina1:00 PM

    I teared up while watching the launch on tv. I teared up again while reading your posting of the experience. Thanks for sharing your story.

  23. Eerickson1:16 PM

    Wow, the disclaimers (two of them!) about not being patriotic make you seem like kind of an a-hole.  I suppose the intent was to reassure us that you're not one of those horrid rubes who -- ick -- love their country.  But perhaps it would have been best to leave patriotism or non-patriotism out of it lest you sound like a clueless twit.

  24. Celia1:23 PM

    Now THAT is a true American!!  My great-grandfather came from Italy and when he became a citizen, they gave him a little American flag.  He kept it with him all the time and would take it out and wave it between his fingers.  He was so proud to be in the "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave"!


  25. Celia1:36 PM

    Oops, I also forgot to say, awesome photos!  I love the one with the shuttle in the background behind the sign.  Great shot!

  26. I work and live in the community south of Houston, TX that is called the Clear Lake/NASA area.  I can tell you that this community has greatly been affected by the recent events with the Space program and NASA.  So many of my friends and neighbors have dedicated their careers to NASA and all that it embodies.  Not only do these people have a deep sense of pride in their work, they push the boundaries of what we all think is possible and not possible. I think for me and many members of this community, the space program has symbolized that anything is possible if you're passionate about it and work hard.  Who could've every imagined that there would be a day that people would travel to space and discover new planets and walk on the moon for that mattter?  People in this country did.  And they worked together to make it happen and we all supoprted them.  As we all have dreams, very few of us actually realize them but the wonder of space is in all of us.  Stephanie, I am glad that this experience moved you the way that it did and Thank You for sharing. 

  27. I had the same reaction and was only listening to the play-by-play on NPR on my way to work. I was overcome with emotion and nearly had to pull over. Just so proud, as well as so sad that they are dismantling the program.

  28. Sfitzg3:53 PM

    I listened to the launch on NPR while I was driving and got emotional too!  So proud of our country and the men and women who are bravely heading off into space.  Just a cool moment. 

  29. I've grown up watching the shuttle launches; whenever one goes up we've always walked out to the yard or driveway to watch. It's so sad to me that I'll never experience that again. The pictures you got are so pretty. 

  30. Stephanie,
    Ditto for what Monica said.  I love your blog.  I love that you shared something that was so moving for you.  And comments from people who are too cowardly to even comment with their own name is just a shame.  Call it rude, use "no offense", or my favorite, "I'm just saying...", it's insulting and unnecessary.  Don't change a thing.Oh, and I LOVE that this guest started a sentence with a conjunction yet pointed out YOUR grammar problems (not that I've read any).

  31. Casey Cope4:17 PM

    I would like to echo what Monica said and encourage you to dismiss rude comments. The reality is by sharing your journey you make yourself vulnerable to negativity. Please don't let it discourage you from continuing to share. People are entitled to their opinions and some of your readers may oppose your choices from time to time. That's ok, though! Sometimes great ideas come from a different viewpoint. I don't believe you should ignore alternative ideas/approaches, but there are appropriate ways to share another view and you should dismiss anyone that doesn't have the class to bring their ideas to the table in a constructive manner.That being said, I also think maybe the guest used the word "smug" as an replacement for "brag" (owing to the fact that several entries share rather exciting tales of adventure). I think that's an unnecessary and unfounded assumption on their part. Anyone who follows your blog read when you admitted that you choose to delegate your money to two things primarily: 1) home 2) experience. You place your priority in those two things and that's not for anyone to judge. You make personal sacrifices where necessary to travel and build a beautiful home. I don't think it's fair if anyone thinks that's a misappropriation of your assets. Because to reiterate, it's YOUR choice. And finally, I think that it's evident you work incredibly hard SO that you can travel and have a beautiful home. There are no short-cuts to hard work and your incredible work ethic is well documented within these electronic pages.Sorry for the long-winded response.  I'm a long-time reader but a first time commenter and I just wanted to offer my thoughts.  Thanks for always sharing-- I truly enjoy "checking-in" each day.  It’s one of my favorite parts of my morning routine!

  32. Alandval20114:28 PM

    "Guest" really ought to add their name if they want to make such a strong statement.
    I personally took no offense to the patriotic comment because I, unlike "Guest" understood your point completely. 

  33. That was so beautiful. Thank you for sharing that. I didn't go but I really felt a lot of the similiar emotions - and I never really considered myself into "astronaut stuff."

  34. Stephanie, What a wonderful experience!  We had often hoped to have a chance to see a shuttle launch but it just never came to be.  The hubs and I did have the opportunity to visit the Space Center in Houston and it brought back some wonderful memories from our childhoods.  Kevin and I were children when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  I still remember my folks, who have long since passed, and me watching it on that big ol' TV in the living room.  Mom even saved a few copies of the NY Daily News whose title screamed "Men Walk on the Moon".  It was an extraordinary time and experience that still gives me chills.  That man could do such a thing as go into space was inconceivable when my parents were kids.    All too often we forget about the research and technology that came from those missions and how it's transformed the way many of us live today.  HBO and Tom Hanks did a wonderful series called "From the Earth to the Moon".  It's worth watching if you have the chance.  (if not just for a flashback to the styles of the '60's and '70's which was always fun!)

    Sure there's probably a bit of patriotism in what you felt while you there, some just wear it on their sleeve more than others.  To me, it's like religion and politics.  I keep it to myself and express it only when I choose.  But the awe and wonder of space exploration, of the unknown of what lies beyond the stars, just inspires us to reach for our dreams, whatever they may be.  And we cheer and smile and applaud with those around us when we witness it happening.  Not an alien feeling at all, but quite a human one.

    Glad you had such a great experience.  Thanks for sharing it!


  35. Whitney Longeville7:05 PM

    I absolutely love the picture with the contrails, and the fist in the air. I choked up reading this. Something I definitely would have loved to see.

  36. Helloloverofbeautifulthings7:14 PM

    What an amazing experience.  I always find it a pleasant surprise when something moves you in ways you didn't expect.  Thanks for sharing the photos.

  37. MrsLimestone7:24 PM

    I'm not that informed about the topic but from what I can read, there seems to be a new generation of space shuttle in the works - its just this model is being retired and the funds diverted to work on the new one.  At least thats how I understood it.

  38. MrsLimestone7:28 PM

    Part of what was so moving was the emotion that you could hear in the various engineers voices as they said goodbye to this era of NASA. I can't even imagine what it would be like to dedicate my life to a project like this and then have it end.

  39. MrsLimestone7:29 PM

    Wow, how cool to have that right outside your door!

  40. MrsLimestone7:35 PM

    Thank you Casey.  I really appreciate your comment.  You are right - by sharing here I open myself up to critique and I just have to grow a thick skin about it nice to hear kind words as well. 

  41. MrsLimestone7:36 PM

    Hi Pam.  Yes I saw that mini series and it was really excellent.  So amazing to think of the strides NASA made in such a short period of time and the personal stories to each of the staff. 

  42. Jessica @ Decor Adventures8:22 PM

    I got teary reading this post, thank you for sharing it with us. How wonderful to see that. Amazing photos too!

  43. Michelle8:25 PM

    I teared up reading this too.  I wouldn't say I am RED WHITE and BLUE like some people... (not that I am not happy to live in America, I think I just may put my pride elsewhere....) but the space program is something I would say that I am proud/ emotional.  Just the other day, I told my husband that it is a shame that they are discontinuing the launches... it is like England and the Royals.  I am willing to have my tax dollars go to something so spectacular.

  44. Zookeepercorri9:39 PM

    It's a shame that they really aren't very clear about those tickets to KSC Visitor Center.  We had the same experience for the last launch.  As a longtime FL resident, I remember when you used to be able to get access to what is now the 'press area' with a view over the lake of the launchpad.  Still, whether its from my porch in Orlando, the Visitor Center, or NASA tv, I can't help but be touched every single time we launched a shuttle into space.  It's just such an epic experience, isn't it?  Glad you were there to witness the last one.  Can't wait for the next iteration. 

  45. Erin Giglia10:41 PM

    I got a little weepy just reading this!  It's funny, my husband and I were just discussing the other day how powerful the moon landing must have been at that point in time.  While not the first launch, I still think it's remarkable and a piece of history.

  46. I teared up reading the part where the guy said to the stranger next to him, "I've waited my whole life for this." Congrats on what is now a once in a lifetime experience.

  47. The end of an era, but the start of a better one! (We can only hope!)

  48. I teared up while I watched the last space shuttle on tv and I just teared up reading your blog post. For me I thought of how far space travel has grown and I also thought of the tragic loss of life it produced also.

    May they return to earth safely.

  49. Bamaleigh1231:40 PM

    Awesome!  I tear up every time I watch a launch as well.  I work at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL--home of Space Camp--and we had quite a crowd gather to watch the last shuttle launch.  It was very cool to watch, we had older people who worked with NASA in the 60s and kids that were in town for space camp and dream of going to space someday. It's an amazing thing when you think about how far we've come and although there won't be any shuttles going up anytime soon our days of space exploration are not over! :)

  50. It really is awesome to see the shuttle launch in person. It made me proud to be an American and in awe of what the human mind can achieve.

  51. Louise Wilson8:07 AM

    Wow - so jealous! I would love to see something like this!

  52. I was lucky enough to witness an early morning launch 10 years ago and trust me tears were shed, it was so amazing.  I watched this one on TV and teared up, it's sad that this era is coming to an end.  I mean, how cool is it to have something take off like a rocket, but land like an airplane?!  I hate things are on "hold" now with the new vehicles, but hopefully that will change sooner than later.  One funny thing about that launch I went to - one of the guys behind us watching it take off remarked "That thing is hauling ass!"  And it made me laugh so hard, so every time I would watch a launch on TV I always thought about that remark and giggled.  It does go up, up and away really fast :o)

  53. As a native Floridian (Orlando), I am very disappointed to see the shuttle program come to an end. NASA has been a part of our lives here and now that it's gone...well, I don't know. My grandmother used to work on launch pad B and I grew up going outside to watch the shuttle launch from my own backyard. Not only are so many people losing their jobs, but the US will now have to depend on other nations for space travel. There will definitely be a void in many people's lives now that the shuttles will no longer launch. I hope one day we can bring it back.

  54. Brandon Gnash5:23 PM

    Wow, I really wish I could have been there. Interesting blog you have here. You have my follow.

    By the way, check out my blog! Cheers.

  55. Carmie of the Single Nester6:44 PM

    You are patriotic!  What a great way to celebrate America - first in flight! 

  56. Megan9:30 PM

    I certainly understand the patriotic thing, but hell, I'm Australian and I know if I were a witness to that it would have brought tears to my eyes - just to know that mankind could do something like that.  Pretty impressive.  How lucky were you to be there.  I'm so jelly :)

  57. Corinne Chain11:06 AM

    I went to a shuttle launch back when I was 12 years old.  My grandfather was invited to attend by one of the astronauts, whom he used to teach and mentor back in veterinary school, and he took my grandmother, mom, and myself along with him.  We got some super-special privileges because we knew an astronaut, but the best part of that whole weekend was simply seeing the shuttle launch.  We were as close as you could possibly get (a few years later that boundary was pushed even further back) and I remember being almost in tears seeing the rockets ignite.  My grandfather definitely cried a little bit too.  It's an amazing thing to see in-person, so I'm glad you had the chance to go!

  58. Playalinda Beach8:19 AM

    great post. i've lived on the Space Coast my entire life. my dad was a NASA engineer for 29 yrs - my father-in-law 39 yrs - my wife spent 9yrs working on the shuttle - myself spent 4 yrs on the unmanned side @  Cape Canaveral Air Station and others in our family many years out at KSC - all total around 112 yrs. We live about 13 miles from the launch pad 39A as the seagull flies. we are sadden at the end of the manned flight program but optimistic that our local community will be better & stronger than ever if we can all focus on the building a better tomorrow. for a great reflection on our community & the space program check out the film the 2nd assassination of jfk on you tube. i surfed that last few days prior to Atlantis taking flight and will truly miss catching waves at Playalinda Beach with a shuttle poised on the pad just a few miles away - a beautiful juxtaposition with being one with the ocean & having an engineering marvel right there. God speed Atlantis! 

  59. Sarah8:52 PM

    I've been reading your blog for a few months but have never commented, but I can't resist this one. I work in Mission Control for the shuttle -- or rather, worked, past tense, since my last shift ended earlier today. There are so many of us who are sad the shuttle program is ending, but wow, it sure was cool while it lasted, right?? I'm SO glad you were able to see the launch, and that you enjoyed it so much.

  60. MrsLimestone8:59 PM

    Wow - how absolutely amazing. I can only imagine how you must have been
    feeling that day. Thank you for contributing to something so amazing.

    In a message dated 7/18/2011 8:52:23 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,


  61. Heidi P11:32 AM

    I was there, too!  So very cool that you got tickets.  We watched from the beach at Jetty Park, just south of the Space Center.  Like you, I suprised myself with how emotional I got about the whole thing and am so glad I was there.  My 11 month old son was with me and it's strange to think he will grow up without a space program.  You got some great pictures!! 

  62. Kelly Whatley3:50 PM

    We rearranged a Disney vacation 2 years ago so our boys could see a shuttle launch in-person. One of the best experiences of our lives! The awe and wonder and respect I have for all the work that has been poured into our space program over the years.....

  63. Thanks for sharing ur pics!


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