By Frank Ochoa-Gonzales,
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center
Throughout history, art always seems to inspire emotion. But in Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach's office overlooking Firing Room 4 of the Launch Control Center, his emotions have inspired several beautiful works of art.
With the end of the Space Shuttle Program approaching, Leinbach came up with an idea in February to honor the final flight of Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour.
"The original idea was to unveil something after the last launch of each vehicle in Firing Room 4," Leinbach said. "I personally wanted them in there because of the teams I've worked with as launch director throughout the last 10 years. It means a lot to me to have them there."
With the help of Management Support Assistant Amy Simpson, designing the first display began in April. The plan was to get Atlantis' tribute up before its final scheduled launch.
[image-51] "The graphics people went from concept to design quickly," Leinbach said. "They put their heart and soul into it. It's so unique to each processing team."
Designs for the first was a 2-foot-by-3-foot piece of work, but the size eventually grew to 5 by 7 feet. The displays couldn't be too heavy, so they are made of foam board and held up with Velcro. Each shuttle is a separate piece, which makes it three-dimensional. Atlantis' display was completed May 7; the spacecraft launched May 14 and landed May 26.
"We did Atlantis separately really well," Leinbach said.
Leinbach and Simpson decided to put the final four displays up at once so workers could enjoy them as the final launches take place. The art for Columbia, Challenger, Discovery and Endeavour went up the last week of July. The displays are on the wall above the shuttle countdown clock in the order of their delivery date.
"They represent everybody who has contributed to the Space Shuttle Program, especially here at Kennedy Space Center, throughout the last 30 years," Leinbach said. "I have a very, very close, personal relationship with those orbiters. And that may sound funny, but the people who work on the vehicles know exactly what I'm saying.
"We end up loving the vehicles as much as we love the crews. It's hard to explain to the public, but everyone who reads this will understand what I'm saying."
Leinbach asked the three orbiter flow directors what they wanted to do with their final launch and coordinated their ideas for each display with two graphic artists, Amy Lombardo and Lynda Brammer of Abacus Technology Corp. Lombardo designed four of the five displays.
Brammer handled the Challenger piece.
"These were the first displays I have ever created," Lombardo said. "I wanted to meet the standards and expectations set by my coworkers, particularly those of Lynda Brammer. Her beautiful work graces walls across the center and I hoped that my work would measure up."
The tributes already have received accolades. As recently as Sept. 7, the Endeavour image was NASA's Image of the Day. The excitement the displays have drawn has come from around the world.
"We knew they were going to be popular, but we had no idea how well they were going to be received," Leinbach said. "I've gotten calls and e-mails from every center... friends I've made throughout my career. It's pretty neat.
"I hope they remain in Firing Room 4 forever. It will be a lasting tribute to the orbiters and the processing teams."
Five replica posters are on Firing Room 4's north wall. Each gives a brief description of the artwork and contains information that couldn't be represented in the display.