The Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to be launched for the 25th and final time on April 19.Â There will be only one shuttle flight after that.Â Â The program is ending.
The mission will be special for several reasons.Â Not the least of which is because it will be commanded by astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona.Â She was injured badly by gunman who shot her at close range January 8 outside a supermarket in Tucson.
Ginny and I were lucky enough to see the Endeavour launched from Kennedy Space Center once.Â We were on a cruise to Nassau in the Bahamas at the time.
It was pretty special for us then, too.Â One of the astronauts on board was Jamestown, North Dakota native Rick Hieb.Â A few years later, I would get to talk about the launch with him when he was on News @5.
I never thought I’d get “worked up” about a shuttle launch, but even from miles out to sea, it was spectacular.Â Unusual, too, because we were far enough away so we couldn’t hear it, only see it.Â I’ve never forgotten it.
Ginny and I left a beautiful dinner in the ship’s dining room, mid-meal, to see the shuttle take off.Â It was worth it.Â Although the ship’s crew probably didn’t want a lot of disruption to their dinner schedule and so didn’t mention to passengers, a few others were aware of the launch and out on the deck to watch.
I’ve followed with special interest the Endeavour launches ever since, and I’ll be watching April 19 at 7:48 p.m.Â You can bet on it.