Posts Tagged ‘space shuttle’
During our repeated trips out to the Kennedy Space Center, there was a palpable feeling of gloom among “the regulars” that we met, including the KSC employees, the locals, the shuttle-watching veterans. On top of the scheduled end of the Space Shuttle program, which was sure to devastate tourism in and around Cape Canaveral, President Obama had announced (mere days before) a total sea change in the budget and direction for NASA. The regulars were not happy about it.
Why all the sad? Click to read more.
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The first four days of our Florida trip, told in three sentences:
- Myself, my dad, and my stepmom road-tripped to Florida this past week while my wife and sister flew.
- Overnight Saturday, we went to the Kennedy Space Center and waited for six hours in the cold, only for the shuttle launch to be cancelled at the last minute due to persistent low cloud cover.
- At 9:00 on Sunday night, just as the Saints were defeating the Colts down in Miami, we drove back to the Space Center, nervously checking the weather forecasts, and worried that we’d miss seeing a launch entirely.
The first four hours of Monday morning, told somewhat longer:
The five of us have spent a decent amount of time discussing how we can best describe the shuttle launch that we saw, cold and tired, at 4:14 this Monday morning. We’ve reached the general conclusion that we can’t, and that that’s part of what makes it so special. Knowing it’s probably the final nighttime shuttle launch, the last one ever, makes it more special still.
On the advice of many shuttle-watching veterans, we didn’t even film the launch as it happened. Sorry.
We did this for two reasons: first, because we were told not to let a camera lens get between us and our viewing of it. (NASA administrator John Bolden, in a press conference, even urged rookie press photographers to put their cameras down for the launch.) Second, though: there is no way, no way, that any of the YouTube videos and beautiful pictures you just Googled can convey what it looks like in person. Those are beautiful to look at, don’t get me wrong. But they’re not what we saw.
If you follow my Twitter (or are especially Facebook-addicted) then you’ve got an idea how our day has gone. But if not, here it is in pictorial form:
And now in chronological form:
- Saturday 5:00: We head to the local Target to stock up for our launch-viewing tailgate party. Soft-side cooler, food/drinks, warm clothes. Folding chairs are sold out (the place is popular with tourists like us).
- Saturday 6:00: We try to nap before our all-night party. We pretty much fail. Instead, we watch the NASA channel on the hotel TV; the new administrator takes heated questions from NASA fans posing as journalists about the Obama administration’s radical proposed budget changes (clicky!). We all decide we like the administrator, though.
For my dad’s 60th birthday—which was actually last September, but whatever—we’re taking a massive road trip to a town of 10,000 people on the coast of Florida. At 10:30 on the night of Saturday, February 6th, we check in at the Kennedy Space Center and are bused out to a causeway and dropped off with our cameras and folding chairs. And at 4:39 on the morning of Sunday, February 7th, we see this:
This is in all likelihood the fifth-to-last space shuttle launch, and the very last night-time launch, in its 29-year lifespan. I realized a year or so ago that I’d like to see it go up before it ends; there are rocket launches all the time, but they look like rockets, not like this–
For all its trouble (2 destroyed shuttles in 129 flights), it’s almost impossible not to feel a little love for the shuttle. Maybe it’s just cause I was born and raised with it. Maybe it’s projected patriotism. But I still feel like the thing itself—an oddly-proportioned cargo jetplane with the engines sticking at odd angles out the back—is just a little beautiful.
Either way we’re going through serious effort to get there; it’s a 19-hour drive for me, dad, and his wife Diana; Mary Beth and my sister Margaret are flying in a day early for girly-time at a spa in Orlando and we’ll pick ’em up on the way. Then it’s a quick nap at the Hampton Inn in Titusville before we head out to the Cape for the launch overnight. Price for the bus tickets to watch the launch from the NASA-owned causeway: $56 per person. Yikes, people. Oh well, NASA needs the money.
So I’ll post more about the big trip as it unfolds.