Once Upon a Time in California . . .

Shuttle Endeavour . . . I was a part of something magical.

I worked on this. For four years, 1975-1979, one of the oxidizer valves on the space shuttle main engine was my life, as I was its dedicated structural analyst.

When I went to the Endeavour exhibit at the California Science Center today, I became teary-eyed. My hands trembled. My normally crisp General American accent devolved back to the deep South Texas drawl I grew up speaking. I relived it all. When Challenger went down, the one question in my mind (though I had already left the project) was, “Was it my part that failed? Am I responsible?” As it turned out, it had nothing to do with the oxidizer valves. But still, I felt responsible.

At the Science Center, I chatted with young people who were there, answered questions about the engine, and chatted with the docent who (I suspect) worked on the orbiter itself (if it didn’t have to do with propulsion, it was outside my sphere of knowledge.) I hope they understood me, what with Corpus Christi dripping from every vowel.

I came away with a new writing hat. No more costume fedoras or hockey hats for me.

Once upon a time, I was a rocket scientist.
My writing hat, from now on.