5.18.2011

5...4...3...2...1 We Have Lift-Off of Space Shuttle Endeavor

Y'all may remember that two and a half-ish weeks ago my people and I went to see the last launch of the space shuttle Endeavor. Unfortunately, just as our bus was through the gates at Kennedy Space Center and was on its way to the causeway viewing location we got the sad news that the launch had been scrubbed (which is NASA speak for cancelled). We were crushed but took solace in the fact that at least we got to see the shuttle sitting on the launch pad (we were trying to be glass half full people).
When we first heard the launch had been rescheduled for Monday, May 16 we thought no way Jose were we schelpping ourselves back to Florida. Or at least Annelise and I weren't, Scott was considering road tripping with some of his coworkers.

But then we got the good news that we would be bumped up to the VIP bus and be able to view the launch from a much closer location, near the VAB (more NASA speak for Vehicle Assembly Building) and the Saturn V center.
(The VAB where the shuttle is put together before each launch)

How could we not go?

So after many, many mind-numbing miles on the road, a hotel stay or two and getting up at 2:45 A to the M so we could make it out to the Cape (it's so fun to say "out to the Cape" like we're Major Nelson and Jeannie) by 5:00(ish) to get on the VIP bus (it's kind of fun to say VIP bus too), and drive out to KSC.

Where lots and lots of other buses had the same idea.
And so did lots and lots of other people.
There were two other sections of bleachers behind me as well, so there were oodles of people milling around and jockeying for bleacher seats. It almost felt like a sporting event, especially since there were concession stands and souvenirs for sale, except instead of keeping our eyes on the ball, we were all watching this...
From this area our view was from the back side of the launch pad (which was a tad bit disappointing to me--at least at first). Here's a closer look with my lens zoomed in:
You can (maybe) see the shuttle and the rocket boosters perched between those two tower thingies (and no, that's not NASA speak for anything).

We had some time to kill so I amused myself by taking pictures and Scott and Annelise soon went to peruse the gift shop inside the Saturn V center.
We had to get our photo taken in front of the countdown clock:

(That lady seemed to be quite comfy sitting there, on the clock (!!) and didn't budge.)
Not too long before lift-off (don't you like my preciseness with the details?) we all stood for the National Anthem and then
listened to a few NASA big-wigs address the crowd which was quite uplifting (no pun intended).
Then I amused myself some more by taking more photos and fiddling with my camera settings so I would, you know, be all prepared at the crucial moment of blast-off.
One of Annelise's classmates was there too with her family, so they were thrilled to see each other (even though they'd just seen each other Friday).
Annelise amused herself by playing her Nintendo DS from behind her jacket since there was a pesky glare from all the sun reflecting off the water in front of the space shuttle. The nerve.
And by making numerous trips to the water station because water is much more fun when available in paper cones.
Then all of a sudden after what seemed like endless waiting everything started to happen very fast. The countdown clock was rapidly decreasing and the excitement of the crowd rapidly increasing.
I had the surreal out of body-ish feeling of "I can't believe I'm really standing right here watching this and the space shuttle is really about to ignite and fly up, up and away" along with a hearty helping of American pride and good old fashioned awe and emotion.

We then heard the final few seconds counted down and then something along the lines of, "...and we have lift-off of Endeavor" announced and then saw this...
followed by this...
and then this...
and also this...(which was about the time I realized I needed to zoom my lens in. Um... DUH, who was prepared for this very moment in history? Obviously not me.)
And just like that Endeavor disappeared through the clouds (the clouds rolled in right before launch, bummer).
It's hard to explain but not only do you see the launch, you also hear it and feel it. Even though we were about three miles away from the launch pad we felt waves of sound washing over us in rumbly bursts (like a cross somewhere between a sonic boom and a million fireworks, there I go being all technical again).

And just like that it was over. Well at least for the spectators. The shuttle crew and Mission Control at NASA/JSC were just getting started.
On our way back to the bus Annelise sweet talked an astronaut into posing for a picture with her. (Okay, maybe I put her up to it.)

Which was a very cool ending to a very, very cool morning.

13 comments:

  1. Wow, thanks for sharing! Sounds like it was worth all the reschedulings and disappointments after all.
    What a great memory for you all. I'll bet Annelise will tell her grandchildren about it someday!

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  2. Oh, I'm SO happy for you guys!! So happy Scott got to finally be a part of that. Both you ol' NASA veterans. That all sounds so very cool and wonderful. YEAH!!!

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  3. Great photos. I have never felt like I was missing anything by not doing this, but now I kind of wish I had at some point in my life. Very cool.

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  4. what a cool experience! and your hair looks fantastic by the way ;)

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  5. What a cool thing to get to do, see, feel and experience!

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  6. That is so AWESOME! I know y'all are so glad you got to be a part of something so special!

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  7. Hey Holly.....it's Amy! (it says I'm Phoebe.....long story! ;)
    love the photos! {and the woman drinking the bottle of water in front of A's friends for some reason really gave me a chuckle! hee hee}

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  8. Unbeliveable!!! So glad you guys got to go!!!

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  9. THAT was a fantastic description. Glad you got to go!

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  10. I can feel your excitement and I loved all the pics. The woman drinking the water bottle also gave me quite a laugh. Clearly her hair wanted to remember the shuttle launches of long ago. :) Your hair, on the other hand, looks fantastic! Great pic of Annelise with an astronaut. I'm so glad your family got to experience this together in person!

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  11. VERY COOL! so glad it all worked out for you all to witness the historic event!! and the astronaut photo is great.

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  12. Looks like you guys had a *blast*! Thanks for sharing!
    ~Molly P

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  13. Great pictures. So glad you all finally got to see it! I have been in Tampa before when the shuttle is landing and you can hear the sonic boom. Kind of crazy considering it is the other side of the coast from the cape. I can't imagine how it must have been being that close. so very cool.

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