TWO Huddersfield families joined hundreds of thousands of people at the launch of a space shuttle.
And they ended up making the news themselves.
Brothers Phil and Ryan Howard had always wanted to see a space shuttle launch and bought their own space suits as Atlantis thundered into orbit.
But they were the only ones to dress up and found themselves surrounded by hundreds of TV camera crews and tourists wanting to take photographs of them.
Phil, 33, was joined by daughter Aimee Howard and Gillian Betony, of Salendine Nook, and Ryan, 30, with girlfriend Charlotte Saxon and sons Josh and Jay Howard from Meltham.
They were among a crowd of more than one million people to watch Atlantis and four astronauts take off on NASA’s last space shuttle voyage.
Phil, who runs Huddersfield-based Web EDI, said: “Myself and Ryan have always wanted to see a space shuttle launch since we were kids.
“We only noticed on the NASA website a week ago that the space shuttle launch was happening on July 8, so at very short notice we managed to book time off work, flights and visas.”
They arrived just in time and went straight to the Kennedy Space Center in Orlando Florida, where they had a go on the launch simulator.
There they decided to buy space suits to wear for the historic event, which meant they certainly stood out from the crowd.
Phil added: “We took the hire car to Max Brewer Bridge, Titusville, where the seven of us walked through the crowd in our orange NASA space suits.
“To our surprise, nobody else had dressed up at all, and hence, we stole the show and relished every minute of it.”
Their 15 minutes of fame turned into two hours of giving interviews to the American media and they’re bound to feature on the holiday snaps of thousands of onlookers.
Phil added: “We would have been lucky to get 15 mins of fame – we ended up with about two hours of ‘awesome’, ‘can we take your photo?’ and literally 360 degrees of people taking snaps every couple of steps.
“News channels were interviewing us, photos were going out live all over the internet – we felt like we were living the American Dream.
“There were fighter jets and helicopters going over, a NASA hovercraft, police and bomb squad going past.”
The family listened in to the space shuttle’s frequency via someone’s radio and they had a perfect view of the launch pad.
Despite the launch hiccup, which threatened to force the abandonment of the launch, NASA spacemen fixed the problem within the 10 minutes slot and took off to the delight of the onlookers. and the Howard family.
Space Shuttle Atlantis is the last active Space Shuttle orbiter in the fleet belonging to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
Atlantis was the fourth operational Space Shuttle and was delivered to the John F Kennedy Space Center in April 1985. Its first flight was in October that year.
Atlantis has orbited the earth more than 4,600 times, travelling over 120 million miles in space.
It launched successfully for the final time on July 8 at 1629 GMT on its 32nd and final flight.