Not many of us can brag about knowing an astronaut first hand, and even fewer of us can say that we are related to an astronaut. Can we even say we know someone, who, in person, saw a rocket ship blast off into space? Not many of us can even boast of this, except our very own Penny Terry, Administrative Assistant for Hospitality International.
Penny not only traveled to Cape Canaveral three times, but viewed the lift off of the space shuttle; with her first cousin, Astronaut Stephanie D. Wilson, aboard the shuttle soaring into space.
I asked about her experience during the first space mission her cousin Stephanie Wilson was on. “It was very emotional!” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect. When the space shuttle began to lift off it was extremely loud. There was this loud rumble, and then this huge cloud of dust appeared. I said to Myself, My cousin is actually going into space. I was so very proud of her.” Penny said the cloud of smoke and dust prevented them from seeing a great deal until Discovery was high into the sky. She saw the boosters fall away and then the shuttle was a mere trail of smoke as it went higher and higher.
What about the second time I asked? “I actually spent more time concentrating on the launch itself,” she said. “I was not as emotional as the first time since I sort of knew what to expect. I wanted to see everything and to experience it all.”
Because Stephanie Wilson had such a large family group present they had to divide them up into teams, and unless you were part of the A-team, you would observe most everything from a distance and have little or no physical contact with the astronauts. “It was still exciting,” said Penny, “But, I was not as emotional as the first time my cousin went into space.”
Astronauts provide a list of persons who they would like to come see the space shuttle launch. NASA then sends an invitation to each person, giving them a choice of being at the launch or for the return trip.
“How about your cousin’s third launch into space,” I asked? Penny remarked, “I was part of the A-Team and invited to the brunch, which was two days before the lift off. I could actually touch my cousin and give her a hug.” She added, “This was the best lift off I’ve experienced, because it took place at around 6:00 a.m. The sky was still dark so when Discovery blasted off the entire night sky lit up. It was spectacular and I was in awe.” Not only did Penny Terry experience this remarkable event first hand, she was able to compare it to the first two shuttle’s she observed going into space, and still has a hard time believing she was there and was related to someone aboard the Discovery space shuttle, and that she was part of this memorable event.