Shuttle Launch Road Trip
I have finally been able to do something that I've
wanted to do almost my entire life. To view, firsthand, the
launch of a manned space mission.
I've wanted to go for years, but getting
everything together and actually going just never seemed to
happened. Over the last couple of years the time and money
became more doable, but it was still a big gamble as to
whether I could actually see a launch. After all, there is
absolutely no guarantee that a launch will occur on
schedule. In fact, it's almost a guarantee that it won't.
I felt like the Return to Flight launches,
after the destruction of Columbia on reentry in 2003, would
be especially hard to see since NASA would be even more
cautious and the likely hood of scrubbing a launch would be
even greater. However, I also realized that if the second of
the Return to Flight missions scheduled for July '06 had any
major problems, there was a chance that the entire Space
Shuttle program could be shutdown permanently. So, I pretty
much had the feeling that if I wanted to see the of a
Shuttle launch, I had better do it now.
So, back in June I bought my tickets and
made plans to spend at least a couple of days waiting to see
As it turned out, the whole trip was great
and the two scrubs (delays) of the launch really worked out
for the best, since I slowed down and got to spend some
quality time at the Cape.
Here are some of the things I saw...
Friday, June 30, 2006: Tour of Kennedy Space Center
Let me take a second and talk to you
about how much
the space program means to me.
I was born in 1965 just
as Kennedy Space Center was being completed. In a way we've
grown up together. I can still remember
from the time I was very, very young (like 4 or 5 years old) the great excitement as I would watch the launch of the
Apollo missions to the moon. On one particular launch
to the moon that took place at night, I can remember running
outside and looking to the south to see if I could see the
rocket glowing in the sky on it's way to the moon. Of course
that's not possible from North Carolina, but I didn't figure
that out until I was six.
As I learned to read, books about NASA
and the space program where some of my favorites. The Bethel
Elementary library had a few books about the new space
program and I memorized them all. I would
pour over National Geographic and Life magazine articles on the Apollo
moon landings too.
As I got older, I wanted to become an
Astronaut. To go out and explore everything that's beyond. I followed everything that was happening in the
space program. As a young boy during the '70's in the 6th and 7th grade I new
all the details of the new Space Shuttle fleet that was
being designed and built. I couldn't wait for that far
off time in the future when they were supposed to launch.
I followed the robotic explorers
too, like Viking and Voyager. I can still remember the day,
August 20, 1975, while working in the tomato field, that I waited
for the time when Viking 1 was supposed to launch. As I was
tying up the tomatoes, my mind was at Cape Canaveral. In
my mind I could see it clearly on the launch pad. As my
wrist watch ticked down to the time it was supposed to
launch I could see it lifting off the pad and on it's way to
be the first human made object to touch Mars. I can still
remember the radio announcer confirming the launch that day
during the hourly news.
So, given all that background, when I finally
got to take a tour of the Kennedy Space Center, all the
buildings and machines seemed like old friends to me. They
are all as old as I am and it's comforting to know that they
are still doing the exact job they where design to do, help
mankind take it's first baby steps away from it's birthplace.
So check out Day 1 of my Shuttle Launch Road
Day 1 June 30, 2006
Sunday, July 2, 2006: An Afternoon at the
Tuesday, July 4, 2006: The Launch of Discovery