Real Chariots of Fire

1st & last Mission Patches, flanking the Shuttle's own Patch

I wrote this nearly a year ago, as a comment to an article on our sister site Hooniverse. I re-post it here, writing as I watch the last de-orbit burn and landing of the final mission.

I spent the past several years trying to find the video I mentioned, but was unable to locate it. Thus, I decided to make my own. I hope that it touches you as much it did me.


Sadness, wistful, anger, pleading, love and awe… the love of my life fades away.

-A young child read the stories of it’s earliest development, in the National Geographic magazines his grandpa always subscribed to him for Christmas, fascinated eyes glued to every page, making spaceships fly with his hands.

-He rode his new bike miles to a friend’s house in order to watch the Enterprise test flights on TV, cheered when the tail-cone came off, cheered when the mother-ship set her free.

-They watched the first space launch on that same little screen, and a local TV station set music to the video of it coming back down – the theme song to “Chariots of Fire,” creating one of the most powerful images of his childhood…

-We watched with blank confusion and horror when Challenger disappeared, a teenager, an entire high school, an entire nation, breathless and quiet… crying the same tears.

-A young man fresh out of boot camp stood in the Florida sun, and from a distance watched the next ship return to the clouds, blinking away eyes watery with pride… fist held high in the air.

-Over the years whenever life would allow, he would tune in to see what was new, watch the launches, and late at night secretly make spaceships fly with his hands.

-Another ship, Columbia was lost, and they questioned it’s usefulness and age, as a middle aged man also questioned his own. A trip to the space center to see it up close, fulfilling a dream yet somehow making it worse.

-Then they announced the time had come, to retire these aging yet still graceful birds. But there was so much work to be done, and she was designed for so much more…

-Alas, they are destined to rest, inspire and teach, and at this age that’s not so bad, and under their wings young children will make spaceships fly with their hands. The man’s grey hairs in the mirror tell him perhaps it’s time to do the same, teach and inspire.

-For your final launch dear ladies, I shall watch with a fist in the air. And when you land I shall once again reminisce, with the theme song from “Chariots of Fire.”

-And when I am old and grey I will still, secretly, make spaceships fly with my hands.

Thank you NASA, for an entire lifetime of dreams…

(P.S… I still have that bike.)

  • damn pete.

  • Charles_Barrett

    This piece brings a tear to my eyes. Well done.

  • *tear*


    Uh…damn allergies?

  • Alff

    Man, that reminds me. Grandma, a longtime Boeing employee, gave me the shuttle patch along with a couple of the Apollo mission patches. I'm gonna have to find thoes.

    • Number_Six

      I had an uncle who was a NASA, then a Boeing employee. He gave me tons of cool Apollo swag back in 1980 and my sense of wonderment is not at all diminished when I look at the stuff today.

      • I received a space shuttle informational brochure published in the late '70s or early '80s by North American Rockwell from a friend of my dad's not that long ago. Not sure where he got it (maybe he went on a tour of their facility in Downey), but it's interesting and definitely worth keeping.

  • Well done, Sparky. Well done.

  • SSurfer321

    Well done.

    I have a relative (never met, but talked to once on the phone) that went up 3 times. I keep all three patches in a drawer at my bedside, along with commemorative coins of each mission.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    Wow, touching, thanks!