The only picture I have, after about 175 launches and landings. I was doing other things.By Kent Shocknek

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Can it really be 30 years, since the first Space Shuttle launch?  Can it really be 30  years, since I covered it live from the Kennedy Space Center? It might be hard for some to believe what a big deal it was back then, when now, the shuttle program seems to many, to be irrelevant. The shuttles may not have achieved everything they promised; but I remember one aerospace colleague saying, “complaining about  the shuttles not doing everything they’re advertised to do, is a bit like complaining about the talking dog, because it speaks with an accent.” A space ship, that carries 7 astronauts into space, orbits the earth, then lands like a plane for reuse another time is pretty amazing. Especially, when you remember it was built with 70’s technology.
I think out of about 270 launches and landing, I’ve covered around 175 live — either there at KSC, or in a studio somewhere. I should have kept a tally. In person, launches were more spectacular. But I was glad I was in-studio for the Challenger explosion. I had access to more information. Although 6 hours later,  I was on a flight to Florida for the follow-up.  

Comments (9)
  1. Alex says:

    Great photo Kent. It’s hard to believe you’ve been reporting on the shuttle throughout its lifespan. It’s sad to see that program end. Any favorite stories or moments from your time reporting on them? Did you ever get to try on a spacesuit?

    1. kshocknek says:

      I got to crawl through Columiba, and peek inside and kick the tires on Challenger. they were just sitting there in a big garage, called the orbitor processing facility. Alex, you’re a horsepower guy: i can’t imagine the feeling of 7 million pounds of thrust, on take-off!

  2. George says:

    It’s pretty amazing that the Shuttles actually still work! Even 70s engineering was pretty damn good! Good for you for reporting so long, Kent. You must have an interesting perspective on moon return and Mars travel.

    1. kshocknek says:

      Thanks George: the Challenger disaster soured me on the NASA bureacracy taking unecessary human risks in an already risky endevor. after that, i refocused into NASA’s more practical research: flight safety, atmospheric studies. not nearly as romantic, but — in these days of no money — much more bnag for the buck. I don’t understand those who want to return to the moon: those heady days are behind us. so if we’re going to swing for the fence, i’d love to see a mars mission, but –again, $$– i don’t see it happening in my lifetime.

  3. Patricia Bunin says:

    Which astronaut would you like to interview today?

    1. kshocknek says:

      John Young! First shuttle commander. he’d flown in every manned space program, except Gemini. A cool guy (in the sense nothing ruffled him), I got to know. And you have to admire someone who smuggled a corned beef sandwich onto Gemini 3. Take that, eggheads!

  4. lisa says:

    You haven’t changed a bit.

    1. Tina Rollins says:

      Kent, We all grew up in the Space Shuttle/Aerospace world. Our families worked for Rockwell Downey as Engineers, Secretaries, Mission Control. When we were kids, a mission would be compleated and we would go to Mom and Dads open house and climb around in the capsules and meet the astronauts. We had to make sure and be up for each mission to watch the men land on the moon.To appluad in everyones accomplishments. It was a day when you had pride in your work and felt like you were a part of something special. Looking back now I realize how special it was. I will have to look through my parents photo albums for some old pictures. I will always remember you reporting on the Challenger Mission. As we watched everything happen right over your shoulder on the T.V. Challenger was a terrible tragedy but there are so many wonderful accomplishments of the Space Program A great time for all of us to remember. Thanks

  5. kshocknek says:

    Tina: it’s why i was always proud to say ‘the shuttle was built in So Cal, mostly Downey and Palmdale,” every launch i covered. a lot of good families grew up in the shadow of that Downey plant, didn’t they?

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