Around 1984 or so, my parents woke us up insanely early and we all piled in our van along with my aunt, uncle and 2 cousins. It was still dark out as we drove towards the California desert. My cousin and I joked the whole way there, making fun of each other and cracking ourselves up.
We pulled off the highway a little after sunrise, and got in a line of cars, vans and campers. At the end of that line was Edwards Airforce Base. We had come to watch one of the space shuttles land. Which exact one I’ll never be able to remember.
We sat at the bleachers that seemed in the middle of the desert, but were in fact near one of the runways. After probably 45 minutes of waiting, we heard announcements that the shuttle was approaching California. Then we heard it. Two sonic booms, one right after the other. I couldn’t even find the shuttle in the sky until someone pointed out a faint white dot in the distance.
Very quickly that dot grew larger and more recognizable. It probably took no more than 5 minutes before she touched down and the crowd let out a cheer.
A few years later, probably in 1987 as it was after the Challenger disaster, we were in Florida, most likely at Disneyworld. At the hotel one night, we heard that the shuttle was going to launch the next day. So the next morning, another darkened car trip commenced. We got there with an hour to spare, so we toured the facility and saw the exhibits.
As it came time for the launch, we went outside and looked in the distance at the launchpad. It was miles away and we had to rely on nearby TVs to actually see the shuttle.
Finally the countdown commenced and then “ignition.” The shuttle rose up on a tower of fire and smoke. Yet it was strangely silent for the first couple of seconds. Then the sound finally made its way to where we were. A low roar that quickly grew into a furious thunder. We watched the shuttle rise higher until you couldn’t see it with the naked eye. We watched the TV which tracked it with their cameras for a little bit, then looked around one last time, and got back into the car for the long drive back to the hotel.