A different time, far from here, a fading memory…posted by Bill Arnett @ 2:44 PM Permalink … of a million people or more at Edwards AFB, California, the Air Force Flight Test Center, a carnival atmosphere filled with every type of media -radio, press, TV- and all the "biggie" newscasting stars of the day.
Virtually endless people and vehicles parked in the desert on the other side of the highway running parallel to the main dry lake bed. Circus time: brightly colored umbrellas, beach chairs, barbecue grills, a tangible hum of humanity all waiting for a single event.
A couple of weeks before the Air Force and the Palmdale crew making the space shuttle had blocked all the highway between Edwards and, with the space shuttle secured safely atop its 747, had rolled it to Edwards foot by foot without incident.
This day was quite special. The 747 had already taken its test flights with the shuttle atop, special covers installed over the engines, all had gone well and they were ready to take the shuttle to altitude, blow the bolts holding it to 747, and see what happened. (There were many betting pools as to what would happen, the most popular that it had the glide path of a crowbar and would crash accordingly.)
In this highly-charged, absolutely electric atmosphere, waiting patiently was me - I had the honor of being the chase vehicle to keep everyone else but the Fire Detail the hell away from the shuttle.
They took off, I waited.
As soon as I was advised by radio that the shuttle was headed down I grabbed my binoculars, followed it down visually, chose the spot from which I would be able to afford greatest security, and watched in total jaw-dropping awe when the shuttle came to rest less that 200 feet away, for all the world looking like some kind of souped-up hotrod. Sitting there it still looked looked like it was doing 300 miles-per-hour.
I have been blessed to have lived in interesting times.