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Posts Tagged ‘space shuttle’

Space Shuttle Atlantis, Launch Day, Mission STS-132

Space Shuttle Atlantis, fueled and ready for its last voyage, May 14, 2010

Today was one of those days that are almost beyond description.  I have been dreaming of going to a shuttle launch for five years at least.  I was in Miami last year and missed one by just a few days.  Since then I have been trying with some earnest to see a launch.  As you may or may not know, the shuttle program is coming to an end after just two more launches.  The program has been very successful over the last 30 years, but the fleet of shuttles is aging and the program is drawing to its inevitable conclusion.  With that in mind, I decided a couple of months ago to attend this launch of the Shuttle Atlantis on its last voyage into space.

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Atlantis, moments after lift-off, May 14, 2010

 
Tickets to see a launch have always been hard to come by.  The spots on the causeway frequently sell out within minutes of them going on sale.  This year it has been much harder due to the dwindling number of launches and subsequent increase in the popularity of the remaining missions.  About three weeks ago the tickets went on sale on the internet and I spent two hours trying to get tickets, unsuccessfully.  Evidently the ticketing program had a malfunction and after two hours they closed down the ticket website and said there would be an announcement for another day to buy tickets.  The makeup ticket sales day sold out all the tickets in 37 minutes and I was unable to buy tickets.    Myself and two friends were going to Cape Canaveral without any tickets to see the launch.  (we had heard that you can watch it from less prime spots that did not require tickets, and that was our plan).
 
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Atlantis, Moments after lift-off, May 14, 2010, HDR

I have written in previous posts that I almost always couchsurf when I travel.  I love having a local person to stay with that knows the ropes and really understands where they live and what makes it special.  The accommodations for this trip was a wonderful person in Cape Canaveral named Kim.  We arrived at her place yesterday and within in a couple of minutes we were treated to the most wonderful surprise we could imagine.  Kim, our excellent couchsurfing host is an engineer for a company that is contracted by NASA.  She is an employee of the space center and as such has great access to the launch.  She took us out to get pictures last night and then took us to the causeway today for the main event.  (The causeway was the same spot that I had spent four hours trying to get tickets for.)  It was a wonderful day and it was very exciting to watch the Atlantis take-off.  Being with Kim was like having backstage passes to the best concert ever.  She was a wonderful host and it was an unbelievable day.  I took a lot of pictures, and these are my favorites so far……..

The launch was really spectacular.  The shuttle lept off the pad in a blaze of fire and smoke and a few minutes later the roar of the engines hit me in the middle of the chest and did not quit hitting.  The shuttle rose quickly into the sky.  It was easy to follow it until the separation of the solid rocket boosters and then it became a glowing dot in the sky that slowly disappeared, leaving an appreciative crowd (and Mark Miner) with a memory to last a lifetime.  Thanks, Kim for being so gracious and showing us such an incredible time.

Mark


Launch Day

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This is our golden ticket.

Countdown to the launch. It is 9am here in Cape Canaveral. We have had breakfast and we are pumped for the launch. According to the news everything is a go at this point. We are going to head to the causeway around 10:30 for the 2:20 launch. Everyone is so excited here.

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Mission Patch for STS-132

Every launch has a different logo or “Mission Patch”. this is the mission patch for this launch. (STS-132)


Night before the Launch……..

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Night Before Shuttle Launch, May 2010

 

I am in Cape Canaveral. We have excellent tickets to the launch tomorrow courtesy of a wonderful couchsurfer here. It is the night before the launch. This photo was taken from approx 13 miles away, as close as we can get tonight. From this distance, the shuttle is just a small dot in the center of the frame. It has been greatly enlarged to make this picture. Tomorrow we will be on the causeway which is six miles from the shuttle. At that distance, the image will be four times larger in the camera than it is tonite.