One of the most exciting assignments I was ever given as a young local newspaper reporter back in the early 1980s was to cover the visit to Stansted airport of the Space Shuttle Enterprise, riding piggyback on its 747 carrier aircraft.
It was in the early days of the Space Shuttle programme and NASA had flown Enterprise round Europe as a PR stunt, accompanied by the commander of the first ever flight John Young who, with Bob Crippen, had flown the orbiter’s maiden voyage on 12 April 1981.
The stop-off on a Sunday afternoon at Stansted airport north of London attracted thousands of people eager like myself to catch a glimpse of the new spaceship.
The piece I wrote for the Lincolnshire Free Press — in those days a traditional broadsheet paper owned by East Midlands Allied Press (EMAP) — reflected the optimism surrounding the fledgling Shuttle programme.
Dr Hans Mark, deputy director of NASA at the time, predicted that by the mid-1990s there would be almost one Shuttle mission per week and that before the end of the century several thousand people would have flown in space.
Of course, in the end things didn’t quite turn out quite as he and many others had predicted.