Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sorry It's Been a While... a Lot Has Happened

 So contrary to weather predictions, Atlantis launched on the final shuttle mission ever a week and a half ago on July 8.  I was thrilled to have been able to bring my parents on to the space center to watch the launch from up close, and afterwards we partook in the traditional beans and cornbread for the last time, followed by an employee appreciation party in the VAB complete with BBQ, beer, and music.  Beer in the VAB!  I did sneak my parents into the VAB for the party, just so they could see the building, and as we were leaving who took the stage but Jimmy Buffet, performing especially for the KSC workers!  It was truly a wonderful yet bittersweet day.  The last shuttle launch....
The following day I hopped a plane out to Houston for mission support.  We only found 5 very minor issues with the TPS during the imagery inspection, but the Damage Assessment Team leaders decided to stretch out the analysis a bit just to prolong our time at JSC.  Our team is a very close-knit group of people and we made the most of our last time together.  We all got together to re-create an Apollo 13 photo, complete with an appearance from Gene Krantz in the actual Apollo mission control room!
The Original
We had another DAT kickball game, which I actually got to participate in this time.  There was a great turnout, people brought their kids and families, and we all had a fabulous time!
The following day we all dressed in our DAT Hawaiian shirts and cleared the vehicle for reentry from a TPS perspective and closed out the DAT for the last time.  There were lots of lasts, and finals, and ends, and good byes.  It was a pretty tough week emotionally.  We were signing posters and tiles and doors.  It felt like the last day of high school, with old jokes, memories and "yearbooks".
The DAT team goes Hawaiian

DAT conference room door
After the last DAT meeting, we all went to the home of the OPO lead, and a former astronaut, Bill Macarthur.  He and his wife have graciously hosted the DAT team after we've cleared the vehicle during the last 3 shuttle flight and this was the last of the last.  They grilled out, had drinks and we all mingled for the last time.
Followed by a party at my friend B's house, which was a bit wilder, went until about 2 am, and which I have no pictures of as I got a bit tipsy on champagne...

I flew home on Wednesday, turned in my travel receipts on Thursday, and Friday hit the internet for some job hunting.  No luck yet.  And now tomorrow is the very last shuttle landing ever.  It is the day that represents the end of the shuttle program, the end of my job, and the beginning of a long void in US space travel.  I plan to wear waterproof mascara.

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