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Triumphant return to space: Astronaut Scott Parazynski remembers launchpad 39A

We all had at least one friend who wanted to be an astronaut when they grew up but not many people actually get to. Scott Parazynski is one of the lucky ones.

“I grew up in the shadow of the Apollo program and every kid on the block wanted to become an astronaut. I just never grew out of it obviously,” Parazynski said.

As an astronaut he’s flown to space five times; three of those missions launched right from launch complex 39A at Cape Canaveral. Many memorable missions began there, including Apollo 11 in 1969.

However, on Parazynski‘s first mission, the history of that launchpad didn’t strike him at first. The astronaut said, “At that moment I wasn’t thinking about that so much as I sure hope I don’t screw up.”

But once he landed, he could appreciate it a little bit more. “It hit me when I came back from the flight and realized the team that I had been on, and the fact that I joined this extraordinary club that included Apollo 11, to realize this is a storied place,”  he said.

At least 93 missions launched from launchpad 39A, including the first and last space shuttle missions. Pad 39A is going to be first in something else: the new era of space exploration. This time, private companies are the ones sending men and women into space.

“It’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal. It’s going to be a triumphant return to space,” said Parazynski.

When Parazynski experienced his last spacewalk, he was still in a place of learning. “I was in a mindset to really absorb as much as I possibly could from the experience. This is my last spacewalk, this is my last orbital sunrise, this is the last dinner I’m going to have with my crew aboard the International Space Station,” he thought.

After hanging up his boots, he’s simply excited for the next generation of astronauts and for the country to witness this launch. Parazynski said “I think this is a really exciting time to be alive. Thinking about the future of human spaceflight. This is our Apollo shining moment.”

He’s also not opposed to going up into space again.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Drew Hill
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