By Deborah Quinn Hensel
HOUSTON (Reuters) - It's a rare person who can say that her artwork is hurtling through space.
But Rachel Hobson, a self-proclaimed space geek and crafts blogger, can certainly claim those bragging rights.
As millions watched the launch of the final U.S. shuttle mission, Atlantis, Hobson had the added thrill of knowing that a photo of her needlework moonscape was on board.
Hobson, a Houston mother, crafter and space enthusiast, won a contest last fall sponsored by NASA and Etsy, an online crafters' marketplace, with her depiction of the moon's surface.
The 4- by 6-inch embroidery and crochet project of silk and cotton threads, ribbons and beads was photographed and turned into a lighter weight print for the trip into space.
"My hope with this small piece of artwork is that I can help inspire people to get back in touch with that thing that sparked them as a child, whether it was space or dance or whatever," Hobson wrote in her entry statement.
Although her prize included a shuttle launch viewing pass, Hobson, who blogs as "average Jane crafter," also secured media credentials to attend the final liftoff on July 8 as a writer for an online craft zine.
Seeing the shuttle up close was a very emotional experience, she said, especially when she looked up and thought about how a print of her work was inside.
"Launches are just spectacular, no matter what," she told Reuters. "You can just feel it as it takes off. My entire body started shaking, and I instantly started crying because it's so awe-inspiring. It's bright; it's loud; and it makes the most unreal noise. At the same time, my brain was trying to process that this is the last time that any of us will see it."
Since a childhood adventure at Space Camp in Alabama, Hobson, now 35, has been awed by the mysteries of space. But a lack of math skills dashed her dreams of ever becoming an astronaut.
When Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just after takeoff in 1986, the loss of its seven crew members left a lasting impression on her, she said.
"I was really intrigued that there were people so dedicated to science and exploration that they were willing to risk to their lives," she added.
She said the end of the shuttle program is sad for a generation that grew up watching U.S. space missions, and a devastating blow to the community she calls home.
"As people leave the area to take jobs elsewhere," she said, "not only will we lose their economic contributions, but more importantly, I fear we'll lose the intellectual richness such a diverse, innovative group of employees creates in our community."
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)