On July 8, 2011, Angela Diaz and her husband, Al, had the privilege of experiencing the final launch of the Space Shuttle, Atlantis, from Kennedy Space Center and to be part of history. This was an especially significant to Angela and Al as they had also been present at the first space shuttle launch of Columbia in April, 1981.
Angela said fondly, “We had the privilege to watch this launch with our friends, Bob Crippen (pilot of the 1st shuttle launch) and his wife Pandora. It was a moment in time of a variety of feelings that we were able to share with many long-time friends and colleagues from around the world (Europeans, Russians, Canadians, and Japanese), and within the NASA family --
- “The typical excitement of seeing the engines light, feeling the pressure wave in your whole being, and watching the elegant majesty of this magnificent engineering wonder rising into the clouds;
- “A certain sadness witnessing the end of an era and anticipating a long hiatus for U.S. human-rated space vehicles being launched; and
- “A sense of anticipation and wonder regarding the future of U.S. human spaceflight in the coming years anddecades.”
As Atlantis begins her journey home, we have an opportunity to focus not solely on the “vehicle” and the hardware, but rather on the people and their legacy. The heroes and heroines – some well-known and others unsung – who are instrumental in making the U.S. Space Program the envy of the world. Talented individuals in the STEM fields and Innovation and competitiveness are the lifeblood of the U.S. Space Program. ARCS has been an instrumental contributor to all three in this country. And although the Shuttle era will become part of our rich history; future exploration “grand challenges,' whether here on Earth within the depths of the oceans, or in the great expanse of space continue and will require the best and brightest from across the country to tackle them. The ARCS mission is even more critical than ever, and the Chicago Chapter with its sister chapters will be in the forefront with its 21st Century ARCS Scholars.
The future is bright and exciting; how humbling to know that, through our scholars, the ARCS legacy will continue to be part of this next chapter in human exploration.