Over the years, I have been fortunate to watch most of the shuttle launches and landings. I was driving at the time of the shuttle Challenger disaster but was listening to the launch on the radio and remembering the knot in my stomach as the announcer's voice said "something is wrong."
I got to see the shuttle flying piggyback on a 747 as it returned to Florida after a landing at Edwards Air Force Base. That was impressive.
I was presenting my dissertation data at a conference in Orlando and was flying home very early in the morning. I knew there would be a shuttle launch that morning so I got up at 3 am to be at the airport and past security before the launch. I remember running to the large windows just in time to see the shuttle clear the trees. It was a clear day so I watched until the booster rockets were released and fell to earth.
So...as I sat watching the shuttle Atlantis leave Kennedy Space Center for the last time ever, I was a little sad. I don't know what NASA has in store for the future, but I feel privileged to have seen so much in my lifetime.
A cupcake toast to the space shuttles!
Enterprise (test flights only), Columbia, Discovery, Challenger, Atlantis, Endeavor