A space shuttle on the back of the special 747 just flew over my house on its way to its final resting place in LA. It was a proud but bittersweet sight because it was a taste of what had been in an era that’s come to a close for our manned space exploration program. We got a call from a friend that it was coming, walked out onto our deck, and there it was within a couple of minutes. The trio of aircraft (there was a fighter escort) were moving along at a stately pace and at a fairly low altitude to give anyone who cared a chance to see the craft fly, one last time, albeit with a lot of help.
I’ve seen the Saturn V rocket, laying on the ground at the Houston Manned Spacecraft Center. I’ve been through Mission Control there. In New York, I’ve been aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid where they have other amazing aircraft that no longer fly. You can walk through a Concord supersonic transport and touch the titanium skin of the still futuristic SR-71. There are a lot of dinosaur bones out there–the remnants of once-great beasts that roamed the skies unchallenged but that have become extinct in our time.
We can do a lot of things today that they couldn’t back then. I’m sure my phone has more computing power than whatever computers were available to help with the design of these aircraft. There are amateur-class CNC machine tools available cheaply and in home shops all over that probably rival the simple CNC knee mills used to build most of these projects, let alone the manual machine work. Parts that only NASA and their contractors could build back then can be made at home today.
But sometimes I still wonder. We can no longer put men on the moon or even men into orbit without another country’s help. We can’t fly supersonically as civilians. Heck, we can’t even get through airports without having to take off our shoes and belts.
Has there really been much progress?
Not as much as there should be. Let’s get busy, people. I still want to drive the flying car I was promised the future would bring!
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Bob is responsible for the development and implementation of the popular G-Wizard CNC Software. Bob is also the founder of CNCCookbook, the largest CNC-related blog on the Internet.
Nice picture! Just watched it fly close to Huntington Beach but it was too far to get a clear shot. But it was great to be there in any event to watch the close of a great chapter in American space history.
Did you take that picture Bob? What a view if you did. What kind of wicked telephoto high speed lens did you use?
Song, no I didn’t take the picture. Thing is, it wouldn’t have taken that much lens. It flew low just a little ways off the beach. I would guess 1500-2000 feet high and maybe a mile off shore. They were trying hard to make it easy to see.
It was only visible for 3 or 4 minutes, so no time to run and get a camera set up.
Great posting, Bob. You really captured my own feelings on the subject.
I understand your feelings – I used to see Concorde flying over my house every morning and evening for many years and I had the same torn heart when the last Concorde flights took place.
Sometimes you can look back on technologies that are clearly dead-ends and sometimes – Concorde, the Shuttle – you just see a lack of investment and a lack of the ‘can-do’ approach that got them there in the first place.