By Sue KILPATRICK
“Let’s light this fire one more time, Mike, and witness this great nation at its best.”
– Space Shuttle Atlantis Commander Christopher
Ferguson told launch director Mike Leinbach just before
liftoff on July 8, 2011
Last Friday, July 8 was a day of making memories and swelling with pride as the space shuttle Atlantis and crew lifted off for their final 12-day voyage into space. I heard CNN call it a “sentimental journey.” People from all over the world gathered outside the Kennedy Space Center to watch. Meteorologists kept an eye on the weather as there was a 70% chance of thunderstorms with rain. But as lift off time approached at Cape Canaveral, there was a break in the cloud cover. So with a few final words from launch director Mike Leinback – “Fergie, Doug, Rex and Sandy, good luck, Godspeed and have a little fun up there!” – the mission began.
As we watched this historical event from Southern California, our weather was typical of a summer day with daytime highs around 90 and nighttimes in the low 70s and upper 60s. By the first of this week a heavy marine layer with drizzle extended further inland and temperatures cooled considerably. Refreshing break!
Over the years, many shuttle landings due to weather problems in Florida have been here at Edwards Air Force Base. Southern California is the birthplace of America’s space shuttle fleet – all were built by Rockwell International in Palmdale.
Aircraft manufacturing boomed in California during WWII to meet the demands for warplanes. After the war, the industry shifted its focus. With the advancements made in technology and engineering and the onset of the Cold War, the United States joined the race to put a man on the Moon. And as they say, “The rest is history.” Anyone living at that time can tell you exactly where they were as Neil Armstrong took that “one small step” as the first man to touch the surface of the Moon.
On Friday night there will be a full Moon. As the years have passed since Neil Armstrong walked on its surface, one might think the magnificence of this event would fade. The following sonnet, “High Flier,” was written by John Magee, a pilot with the Royal Air Force:
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds,
and done a hundred things.
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless falls of air …
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of GOD.
With humbled thoughts, back to the weather outlook for the foothills. Below normal temperatures will rapidly shift over this weekend, as high pressure moves in. By Monday and into next week, expect triple digit thermometer-readings.
So stay cool, and don’t forget to “..have a little fun…”
Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta
Valley resident and Official Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service. Reach her at