The Last Space Shuttle, My America


The last Space Shuttle ‘Endeavor’ was successfully launched.

This is the end of one era.  I suppose that you each have your own different memories related to the Shuttles.

People of my generation would recall Apollo 11.  It landed on the moon on July 20th, 1969.  We watched part of the landing live on television.  It was the scene where Neil Armstrong, a human being, departed from the mother ship on Eagle, landed on the moon and walked on its surface.  These pictures were sent all the way from the moon.  Then they traveled all the way back.  July 16th, Florida 13:32:00 lift off, 20th 20:17:39 Lunar landing.

Such an exciting moment is rarely experienced in life.  Nothing like this ever took place in history.  And everything was on TV.  As I watched this in Japan, I thought of the greatness of America, a nation not afraid to show live this event to the whole world, in spite of the possibility of failure, this great adventure which no other country dared to challenge.

Many people in the world must have watched TV with a sense of awe.  America was in the height of science, technologies and engineering.  Japan, on the other hand, was gradually developing its confidence, having held the Tokyo Olympic game 5 years before.

The exchange rate at that time was 1$=360yen, the limit of carrying out dollars overseas rose from $500 to $700.  The salary of fresh graduates from university typically started from around 30,000 yen/month.

Back then, the Fukushima Dai-ichi (dai-ichi means ‘the 1st’) nuclear power plant was being constructed.  Nuclear fuel was installed in this plant in 1970, one year after the Apollo’s success.

1969 is also 6 years after the assassination of JFK (Nov 1963), 5 years after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, bombing of the North Vietnam (Aug 1964), and the expansion of the Vietnam war.  Domestically were the assassinations of Martin Ruther King Jr and Robert Kennedy (Apr and June 1968, respectively), the American civil rights movements and riots were at its peak.
In July 1969, after having witnessed the Apollo11 lunar landing, I left for the United States to continue my study.  It was my first time to go abroad.  I departed from Haneda airport and arrived at Honolulu airport, Hawaii.  There, I was offered a glass of pineapple juice, and I will never forget how good it tasted.

Same day, July 24th, at 16:50:35, Apollo11 splashed down at the Hawaii off shore, succeeded in return to Earth.  It was truly a great adventure of mankind which was to be marked in the history.  What a timing for me, too.  It was only a coincidence and not planned, but this memory is unforgettable.

It was the start of my 15 years of life in America, but back then, I did not have the slightest idea that this was going to happen.

What comes to your mind when you reflect upon this news of the ‘last space shuttle’?