It’s been one day since I’ve returned from Titusville on the Chasing encore journey. I still find it hard to trace the path from our adventure’s first inception to standing before the Shuttle Endeavour this past Monday in NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
Chasing began when I first saw Endeavour touching down; its final landing and second last shuttle mission. The end of the shuttle program had almost eluded me. I had known that the end was approaching, but it was then that I realized there was only one mission left. Originally I had just decided to do the trip with a few friends. If only I could bring more people, make it a larger adventure to share in this moment of history. That’s when I realized that I could bring more people with me. I could bring a video camera.
Since that time, we have conducted at least 30 interviews with everybody from sci fi fans, scientists, engineers, museum curators, and astronauts. And then, two days ago, we got up close and personal with an orbiter itself. If it couldn’t be Atlantis, which is still housed in NASA hangar number 2, then it was fitting that we saw Endeavour, the orbiter which inspired me to take this journey to begin with. And there she was, not more than 30 feet in front of us. Though the ship’s avionics package and engines have been removed, it was still a beautiful and awe inspiring sight. Endeavour spent almost a total of one year in orbit circling our Blue Planet a total of 4671 times.
Standing before the shuttle, in the moments we had to get acquainted and take photos, I recognized how fortunate we were. Our venture into NASA was one of the first allowed to the public in the Vehicle Assembly Building in many years. However, I also realized something else. That our Chase had really caught two different and yet related things. The first was the technology. Yes we were chasing a vessel, the space shuttle, that almost magical thing that releases us, Human beings, prisoners of gravity, from the surface of this world. But it was those human beings themselves that became a whole other part of our story. We came to see a shuttle launch, and in doing so, we met a community. The ceaseless hospitality of the people of Titisville. Courageous astronauts who risked their lives to take bold leaps forward. Engineers who researched and studied and used their amazing intellect to make this amazing piece of technology. And finally, people, among whom I count myself, who are just inspired by this manifestation of the human need to explore and to know. It is this community to whom we owe what Chasing is becoming. Especially people like Ryan and Rachel Horan who brought us back to Florida this past week and made it possible for us to see Endeavour up close. These efforts reminded us that yes, it was about the shuttle, but it was also about the community that has really become the soul of what our project intends to be.