Home » News
Home » News

Utah space buffs will witness final shuttle launch in Florida

Published July 5, 2011 12:35 pm

Florida • The two will be among the million expected to watch history in the making.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When the space shuttle Atlantis makes its final flight Friday, at least two Utahns will be among the million people expected to gather on the Florida coast to watch it in person.

Paul Gadd, a 37-year-old father of five, doesn't even consider himself a space geek. "I couldn't tell you which astronaut went on which mission and all that," said the public relations and social media specialist from Kaysville, "but I've always been fascinated by it.

Gadd (@GoodGadd on Twitter) was the only Utahn chosen to participate in NASA's official Tweetup for the final launch, along with 149 other applicants out of a pool of thousands. This will be NASA's fifth shuttle launch Tweetup, in which participants are invited to a day-long, behind-the-scenes program featuring astronauts, engineers and other NASA employees. Participants will have access to the highly secured press area to watch the launch from just three miles away. It is the closest anyone is allowed to the launch pad when the engines fire.

"It's pretty cool that we'll be standing just three miles away," Gadd said. "I expect it will be spectacular and grand and loud and I hope it goes on time."

Gadd will be blogging for Salt Lake City's Clark Planetarium during the Tweetup.

Rachel Donner, 37, a project manager at an advertising agency, does consider herself a space geek. Big time. She went to space camp — twice.

"I've been super into astronomy and the space shuttle program for as long as I can remember it existing," she explained.

Donner (@rmiriam on Twitter) participated in the NASA Tweetup for Endeavor's blast-off in May, and a twist of fate (and family vacation) will put her back in Florida at just the right time. She will watch the launch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center with her father, brother and 7-year-old nephew.

"It will be a great chance to introduce all of this to my nephew. I'm really excited for him to see it, " she said. "Dad is over the moon over this. He's seen some rocket launches, like in the '60s or '70s, but he's never seen a shuttle launch."

Both Utahns are wistful about witnessing the end of the space shuttle program.

"It's almost bittersweet," Gadd said. "My dad took me to Hill [Air Force Base] to see the shuttle in 1979 when they did the tests on the back of the plane. Here I am, 5 years old when I first saw it. I was 7 when my dad woke me up to watch the first launch on TV. I grew up with it — it's all I know."

Donner is a bit more melancholy. "I'm really sad about it," she said. "Just because I think it's been such a great part of American scientific achievement. I'm disappointed there wasn't really an effort to create a replacement for it earlier, so that there wouldn't be this gap."

If the launch is delayed, both Utahns may miss it. Gadd has to be back at work July 10 and Donner's family vacation is over that same day.

kimm@sltrib.comTwitter: @tivogirl —

Follow along



Twitter hashtag: #NASATweetup or #STS135

Rachel Donner's blog: http://sts134.tumblr.com

Clark Planetarium blog: http://www.clarkplanetarium.org/blog






Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
comments powered by Disqus