The Upshot

Two photos, thirty years apart, move the Web

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Thirty years ago, the first space shuttle launched into the stratosphere. Chris Bray and his father Kenneth watched -- and took a picture. Then last Friday, the shuttle Atlantis took its final trip. Again, the Bray men were there. And again, the two snapped a photo to capture the moment.

The side-by-side photos, which are up on Chris Bray's Flickr photostream, immediately went viral on the Web.

The first shot shows 13-year-old Chris with then 39-year-old dad looking through binoculars at the space shuttle Columbia's first launch on April 12, 1981, from the Kennedy Space Center.

The second snap comes three decades later and recreates the same moment at the last shuttle voyage. The young son is now an adult. His father is now gray-haired.

Chris Bray wrote on his Flickr page of the side-by-side images: "The picture we waited 30 years to complete."

The younger Bray told the Washington Post, "We've always loved that first photo. Taking a similar one for the last launch seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate the shuttle program and our relationship by putting the time passed in perspective, celebrating the interests we share, and illustrating the father/son bond we've maintained over the years."

The Brays' photo touched a chord of nostalgia in many rocket enthusiasts, and the pic has been viewed on Flickr an astronomical 510,000 times.

Comments on the pictures commend the melding of the personal with the historical. Says one: "Epic. To be able to share in something so wonderful with your dad, both beginning and end. I am jealous -- both that you watched not only the first but also the last mission -- but also that you did it with your father."

Another fan of the photo who used to work on the space program wrote in, "Everyone I used to work [with in the shuttle program] thinks it's so cool, [they] get chills."

Chris Bray responded in an email that he was overwhelmed by the response: "I was surprised.  The picture had a lot of significance for me and my father, but we didn't expect that the photo would touch so many other people." He added,  " The moment has stayed with me since that day, and is one of my fondest memories and childhood experiences."

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