STS135 launched today. The last shuttle flight brings a lifetime of memories up. My father was a NASA engineer. He worked at Goddard Space Flight Center. Dinner conversation consisted of the information Pop could share about the various missions. We watched launches without fail–though usually Pop was at work. If he wasn’t–the commentary on what actually was going on was amazing. Sometimes, after a launch when the coverage showed Goddard, I could pick Pop out of a room of similarly dressed, often bald, white men dressed in button downs and dress pants. There they sat behind primitive screens or stood watching blurry camera feeds with glowing green numbers feeding alongside.
I was born between Apollo 11 and Apollo 12. I often growled growing up that my parents didn’t plan better so that I would not be in utero for the first moon landing. I am not sure that my parents ever understood the fact that I growled about that and then growled that my mother didn’t have me at Woodstock. It was a big year and I missed the good stories in my mind.
But, the space program rolled on–some missions, Apollo-Soyuz, Viking, the fly-by of Jupiter and my father kept on working. He started to work on the shuttle program at some point–I don’t know when–I was a child and it likely was classified in any case.
In 1981, a funny looking thing sat on the launch pad-the shuttle. My father was at work. Flight dynamics was his job. The launch went off. We knew to watch for the roll. We held our breath and bounced and it was off. My father came home and reported that there were people in the room surprised it flew. It made no sense but it did. Everyone in the program knew that, knew the risks, knew that these would forever be test flight stage. Yes, the space program like so much on the Internet is a permanent beta test. My father would come home with an impressive framed certificate for work on flights. I would try to convince my father that I could be an astronaut. His horror made no sense to me when I would talk about it. He loved the space program, he believed in it. Unfortunately, he was all too aware of the dangers and no one wants their child to sign up for that sort of danger. Ah well, I didn’t become an astronaut but I sit here typing on a laptop brought into being because of the space program. We wander the Internet because of it. We go out with our cell phones because of the space program. And now the last project my father worked on is now making its last mission.
So a salad…space aged of course, because of the Tang! Of course, Tang these days has artificial sweeteners and isn’t the Tang of our youth. Like a space pioneer–try at your own risk.
3 tablespoons Tang
1 small box vanilla pudding
3 sliced bananas
2 cans fruit cocktail, drained
1 can pineapple chunks or bits, drained, reserve juice
Mix the Tang powder and pudding powder together. Add the pineapple juice. Mix in the other fruits. Chill or serve immediately.