STS-125 Atlantis Launch

by sheverb on May 12, 2009

A photo-heavy post. With much unnecessary rambling.

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On the road to STS-125 Atlantis Launch

Our mission to view the STS-125 Atlantis launch was nearly aborted when someone forgot their tickets and we had to return.

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STS-125 Atlantis Launch Kennedy Space Center Entrance

Fifteen or so hours later, we arrived at our destination. During those 15 hours there was some driving, some Sunpass and decidedly more hip E-pass tolls, a Mexican joint that thankfully did not serve alligator fajitas, and a little beer and penny-ante poker in an only moderately disgusting room at a Super 8.

Oh. And there was a lot of not sleeping for me. I’d blame SSP’s snoring, but it’s all anxiety, baby.

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Kennedy Space Center, Visitor Complex on Launch Day

Arrival! Having slept about an hour and a half the night before, I tried desperately to channel fellow insomniac Betty, but I’m not sure she heard me. Her advice about just plowing through it helped. Insomnia will not kill me. [Select your deity] bless Betty.

But the heat? She never counselled me about heat.

Thankfully my fellow travelers were up for sitting in a darkened theater at nine o’clock in the A.M. watching Tom Hanks narrate a 3-D move about moon landings.

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STS-125 Atlantis Launch, Flight Simulator, GAY!

Rejuvenated, my iPhone captured my sweaty gray hair and the rest of us headed towards the new launch simulator at the Kennedy Space Centers Vistor Complex. I thought it would be comparable to the simulator at Epcot (which was so unsettling that for the following two weeks I was certain its G-forces compressed my brain and aggravated some undiagnosed atrial venous malformation) so I took the “observation” option allowing me to watch, via cameras, my cohorts being subjected to the rigors of a real live honest-to-god actual launch.

You can’t blame me. We were at NASA. The building housing this simulation appeared as large as the VAB. I might have an undiagnosed AVM. Let me repeat, we were at NASA. It had to be dangerous.

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(No photo here. They made me put my camera in a locker. Total shame.)

I looked on from the one lonely theater chair they supplied for people like me as my companions were jostled around a bit making my backseat ride through the E-pass lane just south of ORD appear more harrowing. Next time, shuttle simulator at NASA, I will ride you.

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STS-125 Atlantis Launch

The pod bay doors are for loading and unloading only.

With time to kill, we walked through the shuttle on display at the center. I’d seen it before and it was largely uneventful. The shade, however, provided relief. Since I was unable to channel Betty, it occurred to me that I might be okay with the lack of sleep provided I stay away from the direct 95 degree blazing sun.

(The feeling just before passing out is similar to the sensation of a panic attack. When in an environment that fosters both panic AND actual fainting, the only recourse for this anxiety-attacker was to make excuses to hang out cool dark places. Which we did. After watching another well-timed IMAX 3-D movie about the ISS, I discovered yet another small theater broadcasting the live NASA feed. It came with an employee named Robert who answered questions about launch. Bonus! I asked him about the extra seven seconds added to the launch time the previous evening (alerted to this nugget of info by my iPhone as I lay awake the night before with the Kindle app). He talked of the proximity to our location to the equator, the vast distance between the IIS and the Hubble, the ridiculous amounts of fuel required to get there. Unable to understand why this wasn’t worked out before 11pm the night before, I asked, “What was it? A miscalculation?”

He said, “I guess.”

Really!)

And then it was time for the launch. The Visitors Complex was not nearly as crowded as I expected it to be and I was able to wander between the spot we staked out and the interior of a nearby building for cooling airs a couple of times before the big moment.

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STS-125 Atlantis Launch

STS-125 Atlantis Launch

STS-127 Atlantis Launch

I didn’t use a tripod or my crappy telephoto lens. I just hand-held my Canon Digital Rebel with a 50mm lens.

I have regrets. They are many.

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STS-127 Atlantis Launch

And then the crowd went wild.

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STS-127 Atlantis Launch

Happy campers after the launch.

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STS-127 Atlantis Launch

Anxiety free after the launch.

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STS-127 Atlantis Launch

Post not complete without the epic fail we discovered at the Space Shop.

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On the road to STS-125 Atlantis Launch

What a long strange trip it’s been.

{ 8 comments }

OhCaptain 05.12.09 at 11:45 pm

Very cool! That’s something I would really like to see. Thanks for sharing!

KenP 05.13.09 at 7:17 am

You do have about as sweet a smile as was ever hung under a nose. Stop it! The Cheshire cat auditions are over.

pokerpeaker 05.13.09 at 1:34 pm

YOUR ramblings are never “unnecessary.”

voice of the mysterons 05.13.09 at 5:01 pm

Woh! I envy you that!

sheverb 05.13.09 at 5:29 pm

Captain and Mysterons, next month is a night launch! Come on over!

Ken and Peaker, awww.

voice of the mysterons 05.13.09 at 5:46 pm

I would, but that would involve, uh, flying and stuff ;)

sheverb 05.13.09 at 6:02 pm

Watch a launch and you’ll see regular old air travel in a different light.

Bill Rini 05.18.09 at 3:08 am

Very, very cool.

I would love to go see one of the launches. Must be breathtaking.

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