Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Shuttle Landing 1982

Yours Truly, Meldee, Robin, Jill and Patricia
 (Photo: Elaine)
Where were you in 1982?

November 16th of that year I was at Edwards Air Force Base in California for the landing of Space Shuttle Columbia.

We have been lucky enough to attend a couple of Space Shuttle landings through the years.  What a wonderful experience!  I was sad when NASA recently retired the shuttle program.

Space Shuttle Columbia - STS-5
(Photo: NASA)
The STS-5 crew included  Commander Vance D. Brand, Pilot Robert F. Overmyer and Mission Specialists Joseph P. Allen and William B. Lenoir. 

The crew
 (Photo: NASA)
There is an interesting story that goes along with these photos.  My friend Meldee and I were living in Phoenix, Arizona at the time.  Our friends Robin, Jill, Elaine, and Patricia were all living in Southern California, in the Los Angeles area.

Meldee and I were driving over from Arizona, the others were driving up from L.A.  The idea was for us to meet at Edwards for the landing.  In order to facilitate us finding each other, the girls from Los Angeles promised to fly the Jolly Roger.  

(This was around the time that Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta Pirates of Penzance had been highly successfully resurrected on Broadway. We had recently driven out to see it on stage with the same group of young women.  The Los Angeles production was wonderful and starred Barry Bostwick, Andy Gibb and Pam Dawber.  We were feeling very pro-pirate during this time period, as I recall.)

Robin, Jill and Patricia with the Jolly Roger
I remember Meldee and I saying an earnest prayer that morning that we'd be able to find our friends.  It was a long drive to California.  We knew these events were well attended, but had no idea at the time the sheer volume of people that would be converging on the desert base.  As we got closer to Edwards, we were in a long line of cars.  It seemed improbable that we would be able to hook up with our friends.

As we got to the base itself, there were scores of people directing the traffic into vast parking areas.  Long lines of cars stretched out as far as the eye could see.  There were in the neighborhood of 100,000 people, and I'm not sure how that translates into vehicles, but you get the idea.  It was just an incredible sight!  I remember Meldee and I despaired that we'd be able to find our friends at all in this zoo of humanity.

There was a real carnival atmosphere to the event.  There were so many people there - folks of all shapes and sizes and ethnicities, old and young, all filled with excitement for, and love of, the space program.  It was so much FUN.

As we were directed into a parking row and swung into our designated space, however, what should we see about two rows ahead of us?  Yes!  The proud Jolly Roger flying on Jill's old blue Ford Galaxy 500!  They were pulling into their spot about the same time as we pulled into ours.

What are the odds of that?  

You can do the math, if you'd like, but I prefer to just be astounded at how that simple prayer of ours was answered.  That we found each other at all was nothing short of a miracle, given the situation, in an age without cell phones, and the completely different directions we were coming from.

I'll also never forget the awesome feeling of seeing the shuttle appear in the distance and watching it come in for a landing that day.  It defies description.  I still get goose-bumps thinking about it.

Rockwell had put out a tee-shirt some years before this with the slogan, "A Space Ship Has Landed On Earth: It Came From Rockwell".  I still have that shirt.  

What a great memory.

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