Twenty kids stopped eating donuts long enough to shout out a countdown this morning in my living room. We gasped as Endeavour’s rockets blossomed, smiled at the crackle and roar and cheered as she ascended, rolled gracefully and disappeared into the clouds with a flash of orange. We watched in awe as the side booster rockets blew off and the shuttle floated free of the external tank with the curve of the earth in the background. I have to admit that I got a little misty- not because I wasn’t standing at the countdown clock to experience it live, but because despite the laws of physics and all the safety precautions, it still seems like a miracle each time we send people safely into orbit.
I was thrilled to get my first question from a student named Ian yesterday! He asked how the space shuttle Endeavour got her name.
When NASA invited students to name the new shuttle they were building, over 70,000 kids replied to the challenge. You can read more about the contest on NASA’s website, but here’s why Endeavour was the winning name:
“Endeavour was the most popular entry, accounting for almost one-third of the state-level winners. The Endeavour was a ship belonging to the British Royal Navy. In their entries, students focused on the vessel’s first voyage under the command of seaman and scientist James Cook in 1769-71. Cook steered Endeavour to Tahiti in the South Pacific to observe and record the rare event of the transit of Venus, a celestial event that allows observers on Earth to see Venus passing across the face of the sun.
Students drew parallels between astronomy on Cook’s Endeavour and on the space shuttle; the payloads of medicine, science and commerce that were on both the ship and shuttles; and the make-up of the crews, both of which included scientists.” www.nasa.gov
A great name, don’t you agree?