Friday, April 29, 2011

# 16 - See a Space Shuttle Launch (Almost There!)

We are in Orlando trying to get #16 checked off my life list. STS-134 will be the final launch of the shuttle Endeavour. The launch was first targeted for March, then April 19. However, the April 19 date was moved to April 29 due to an anticipated traffic jam at the International Space Station. The Russians astronaut team would be docked at the same time Endeavour needed to be there, and due to the timely nature of the science work that the Russians needed to do, Endeavour got bumped.

We arrived late on the 27th and made our way to the condo we are renting downtown. It's in a nice, walkable location, a few blocks from Lake Eola and a cute commercial district. I found it on AirBnb. We spent the 28th getting our "provisions" for launch day, including tracking down collapsible chairs and picnic stuff.

This morning was an early start. We had to be to the mall to catch the tour bus by 5:00 AM. That meant alarms were set for 4:00 AM, not that they were needed, as I was too giddy to sleep. I woke up every 10 or 20 minutes, not wanting to miss the alarm.

When we finally arrived at Kennedy Space Center, we had a few hours there before we needed to board the buses to go out to the viewing area on the NASA Causeway.

Made it to the Kennedy Space Center!

Astronaut greeting us at the entry gate.

Part of the rocket garden at the Kennedy Space Center.
We had time to catch a wonderful 3-D IMAX movie on the Hubble Telescope. It included amazing clips of the spacewalk/work that the astronauts did to do the repairs to the Hubble. Do you remember when they finally got the Hubble in space, it had a warped lens that produced blurry photos? Well, space shuttle teams did a series of spacewalks to correct the problem. The other thing about the movie that was fantastic was the stunning images of the Earth from space. You know, every time I see a picture of the Earth from space I am reminded how tiny it really is, and how more care needs to be taken.

After the movie, we got in line to board our tour bus to the Causeway for viewing. This viewing point puts you about six miles from the launch pad, which is the closest you can be as a visitor. Well, maybe you can be closer if you know the right people or are a VIP, but it's the closest you can be as a "regular" visitor. Right about the time our bus rolls into the parking area on the Causeway we see a bunch of people packing up and heading back to their cars and buses. Hmm ... that can't be good. Bob quickly pulled up the NASA app on his iPhone (which I highly recommend) and read, to our disappointment, that the launch had been scrubbed. Apparently they found a malfunction on a component. Bummer! The current word is that it will launch no earlier than the afternoon of May 2, so we wait. We knew the potential for last minute scrubs, either due to technical or weather-related issues, so it's really not that surprising. Safety first for the crew ... being able to see the launch is a total bonus. I was able to get this photo of Endeavour on the launch pad.

So, now we wait until Monday, keeping our fingers crossed that we will get to see a launch.. I am not sure if seeing the shuttle six miles away and no launch is going to cut it for me. I am crossing my toes too, for a little extra luck.

Happy campers at the Kennedy Space Center!

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