Thursday, July 21, 2011

Farewell to the Space Shuttles

The space shuttle Atlantis touched down at Kennedy Space Center this morning, marking the end of a successful chapter in the nation’s space program. I saw some interesting statistics from NASA on twitter this morning. This was the 33rd and final flight for Atlantis, which spent 307 days in space, orbited Earth 4,848 times and traveled nearly 126 million miles. It was also the 19th night landing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, a fitting end for the 135th and final space shuttle mission.

I distinctly recall the Space SHuttle Challenger disaster on January 28, 1983. It was a bitterly cold day on the East Coast. I was taking an early AMTRAK train to DC with a client. We had a meeting scheduled with an attorney from the US Department of Labor to discuss some irregularities in the client's use of grant funding. As wee looked to board the train, we were baffled by why one car was empty, the others packed. We grabbed a seat only to discover, as the train got under way, that the car we were in had no heat. And so we roamed the other cars in search of seats, which we eventually found. Bad omen.

In Washington, we located the Department of Labor. The building reminded me of the warehouse in the final scene of "Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark." With its endless corridors, the building could not have been better designed to make the average citizen feel small and insignificant.

My law firm's Washington lobbyist had assured us that a deal had been informally struck and we were there merely to formalize it. He could not have been more mistaken. We walked into an ambush. The second nastiest female lawyer of my career lectured us for an hour on proper accounting for grant funds, then threw us out.

The day was capped with footage of the Challenger disaster, as we consoled ourselves in a Union Station bar, awaiting our train home.

Ah, memories... how the great and the small conflate.

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