Tag: Space Shuttle

The Final Countdown

Posted by – June 6, 2011

“It’s toured the country and the world to honor the dedication and sacrifice of Americans who have lost their lives serving as police officers, firefighters and military personnel. Now, the U.S. Honor Flag will pay tribute to astronauts who have died in the line of duty as it flies this summer aboard space shuttle Atlantis during the shuttle program’s final mission.”

Barring any technical difficulties or weather issues, the shuttle Atlantis will launch for the final time on Friday, July 8, 2011 at 11:40am EDT.  The launch also marks the end of the 30 year Space Shuttle Program.  After its 12-day mission, Atlantis will return home and retire to its permanent home at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Titusville, Florida.

Back in February I finally made it over the coast to see the Shuttle Discovery’s launch.  I must say I was surprised at the view (or lack of view) of the shuttle from as close as I was.  I didn’t really see much more than I do from home … a ball of fire and a smoke trail.  I thought I would at least see the shuttle like I did on my “dry run”.  Heck, I was even able to see the booster rockets separate that time.   But I guess a lot depends on the shuttle launch trajectory (the direction it takes off in depending on the wind, weather, etc.).  At any rate, I think the whole experience is still worth the trip.  It’s more than just watching the launch; it’s about the whole experience and the camaraderie you share with people from all over the world.

If you decide to catch the last shuttle launch, and you’re unable to watch from the KSC property, here is some information on where to watch and a few things to remember:

(For suggestions on where to watch click HERE and HERE.)

~ Be there early, camp out overnight or get a hotel room the night before.
There will be people everywhere.
~ Plan to spend the whole day and don’t be in a hurry to get anywhere before, during, or after.
There will be people everywhere.  (see the pattern?)
~ Remember, you’re going to be out in the heat (unless you have a camper with a/c) so dress comfortably and light.
~ Take chairs, a tent, a blanket, or whatever you may want to use to set up your spot.
~ Pack up the cooler with plenty of water (or your preferred drink) and take along plenty of snacks and food stuff.  If you don’t want to there are alternatives:  There’s usually some food vendors set up around the area or you can watch and eat from one of the local restaurants.  But remember:  There will be people everywhere.
~ Take a portable radio and tune in to NASA radio.  You’ll hear the countdown and also hear if there are any delays or if the launch is postponed.

For many this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  Relax, Enjoy, Make Memories.

Shuttle Dry Run

Posted by – April 5, 2010

I’ve lived in Central Florida for 26 years and during that time I’ve only watched the space shuttle launches from just outside my home or office.  Rather, I’ve watched the plume of smoke rise up into the sky while I listened to a launch play-by-play on the radio.  After a number of times it didn’t seem that exciting anymore though I’ve always wanted to drive over to the coast to see a launch up close.

shuttleAccording to NASA there are only a few launches left before the shuttle program ends so when I heard there was a launch scheduled for 6:21 this morning I planned a long overdue road trip to the coast.  It turned out to be more of a dry run.

I had to take my animals into consideration so I couldn’t go over and stay the night.  Instead, I decided to get up early and try to get to Space View Park 30 to 45 minutes prior to launch time.  I was surprised at the number of other early morning travelers on the road but we were all travelling at a pretty good pace until…traffic came to a stop a few miles before the Beeline Expressway turned onto the Challenger Parkway.  It was a slow roll until we approached a bridge near Titusville (not far from the I95 exit).  Folks were pulling off on the shoulders on both sides of the bridge and jumping out of their vehicles in the dark on this narrow, two-lane highway.  They were the cause of the massive backup.

As soon as I passed the mess, it was clear sailing but I had lost all my extra wait time before the launch.  I wasn’t sure at this point if I would even make it to the park on time.  Sure enough, I was a few miles from my destination when I saw a huge ball of light rising up from behind the trees ahead of me.  As soon as I made it around those trees I parked myself on the closest sidewalk and watched the launch.  It was a beautiful thing.  It wasn’t as close as I had hoped but I was not only able to see the plume and the fire from the rockets but I was also able to hear the roar of the shuttle as well.  Since it was still (mostly) dark, I was also able to see the booster rockets drop back and watch the shuttle as it started making it’s orbit.  At that point, I made a u-turn and headed back home.

I know that for the few remaining launches there will be many more spectators coming and more traffic.  If I am home and able to get to the coast for another launch I’ll use what I learned this trip to make that one a more enjoyable experience.  If you’ve never seen a launch and you’re able, you should make a point of trying to get to one of the last launches.  The earlier you can get to your destination, the better.  Many people camp out.  It’s quite an experience.  If you’re not sure where to go to view a launch, check out this site for the info you need.    For me… lesson learned.

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