May 252011
 

Picture by Shelley Bernstein

 

I sit here over a week out from watching Endeavour soar towards the stars and still I can’t quite put the experience into words.  It went so fast, and maybe I should have started my cameras rolling just a little sooner, but it was almost like I blinked and the shuttle was gone!

 

 

May 16th started very early for me.  After just 3 hours of sleep we at the Mercury House 2 woke up about 1:30 to get ready.  We had a quick breakfast at the Waffle House in Cocoa Beach (although a couple in our group just watched the rest of us eat as they were appalled by the cleanliness of the restaurant) before heading to Kennedy Space Center.  We were told to be there before 4:30 so that we were at the press site before the road was shut down to allow the Astrovan to come through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the wee hours setting up my cameras and taking pre-dawn pictures of the shuttle across the way.  I found myself still in awe of being at the media site.  I looked at the time and went racing towards the access road in time to see the Astrovan drive past us in front of the VAB about 5:11 am.  In the pre-dawn it was amazing because the lights were on in the Astrovan and we could see the astronauts waving at us from the windows and door of the van as it stopped to let a few people off (right in front of us instead of pulling into the VAB like it did before the scrub 2 weeks earlier).

 

 

They didn’t turn around this time, and kept going.  The rest of the morning was a little tense as there were several things that could go wrong, that could cause the launch to be postponed again and I guess a part of me thought maybe it wouldn’t go up again.  As the time got closer and closer I was ready, but yet at the same time in denial that the time had come, but through all that I have video and pictures of Endeavour rising up off the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My video says what I can say in words the best…, “Awesome”  “Wow!”  “Unbelievable”.  Really there are no words to describe what you feel when you see the smoke start to flower out from the base of the launch pad, then the flames explode and push the shuttle off the ground, brighter then the sun…smoke flowering out even more, and then it rises up towards the sky (and in our case the clouds) and you see it disappear almost before the sound, a series of explosions and pops, hit you.  When the sound finally hit us all went silent…no voices were heard again until the sounds faded into the early morning light.  If one watched the clouds, the shadow of the shuttle could be witnessed curving off to the left.  We just stood there and stared, all in awe that we just watched 7 human beings blast off to space, a place each of us would secretly love to spend even a few hours.

 

STS-134 Launch of Endeavour (Click here to watch my video on YouTube).

 

And that was the last launch of Endeavour.  On the horizon is only one more shuttle launch, an added on flight of Atlantis.  STS-135 is currently scheduled for July 8, 2011…the last shuttle to leave the U.S.  What comes next?  NASA is working on the next manned space craft, but it will be several years, some estimate at least 5 years before that will be available.  There are many who I have talked to who were unaware that this was the end our shuttle program.  We all dream of being astronauts, we all applaud NASA for what they do, but for some reason the funding NASA needs to continue is reluctantly given.  Why?  Why is the U.S. so reluctant to fund an organization that has improved all of our lives.  So many things have come from NASA, technologies and medical research have all been advanced because of our aeronautics programs.  It can’t end!  We have so much further we can take things and I hope that people realize just how important these dreams are to us all.

 

 

In the end the NASA Tweetup was about new friends and about celebrating NASA’s launches into Outer Space.  Didn’t we all dream at one point or another of having such an opportunity.  I love NASA’s motto: “Failure is Not an Option” and we need to remember that.  There are some who want to discontinue the NASA programs, and they would be wrong.  We need NASA to keep reaching for the stars and I hope that we never forget that dream.  Didn’t we all want to be a part of Star Wars or Star Trek…to travel from world to world, planet to planet, and universe to universe?  That is the dream that NASA is trying to reach for us.

Picture By Rachel Donner

May 152011
 

So today I had the opportunity of a life time!  I, along with the other Tweeps who were able to come back to Kennedy Space Shuttle, had the chance to watch the retraction of the RSS.  What does that mean?  It means we watched as the scaffolding that protects Endeavour (in this case) from the weather, and allows easy access for personnel to perform repairs and access the shuttle easily once it is moved to the Launch Pad (in this case Launch Pad 39A).  We got to stand about 600 meters away from the shuttle as it was slowly revealed.  We could see the movement better then the media, but they got to see a straight on view…but our bus paused on the way out to allow us the chance to photograph that view.

 

All I can say is WOW!  It was just amazing to be that close to the shuttle.  I couldn’t get tired of the view, we got to stand there about 2 hours and savor the opportunity.  I hope the everyone enjoys the photos that I am honored to share with you!  See my Flickr Site for all the photos I shared from today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 142011
 

I don’t fly out of Baltimore until this afternoon, leave about 5:40 (and hopefully everything will be on time, even with the rain!), but about to leave for part 2 of the STS-134 NASATweetup.  I’m excited, exhausted, and ready to watch and meet up with my many new friends from the Tweetup.  My fingers are crossed that there are no malfunctions and that the weather cooperates!  When I tell people here at home about my adventures and how it happened they look at me like I’m crazy, then tell me to bring home some pictures.  That is no problem as I already have a plan to execute and I hope to get a few good reminders of this chance of a life time!  I wish my friends and family could all be there with me, but since that can’t be, I can at least try to capture a bit of the magic as it happens.  Endeavour is going to launch, and my NASATweetup friends and I will be there to watch!!

May 122011
 

Life if full of the unknown.  There are things that are worth taking chances though and I sit here about to take off on another adventure, this time with as much hope as last that I get to watch a hunk of metal containing human-beings take off for the stars!  I know that Endeavour isn’t going to the stars, it would probably be destroyed long before it could get even close to one, but I, along with a lot of other people, will only ever dream what it is like taking off to orbit around the world.  Very few human have had such an opportunity, and few it will remain for now I believe.

 

Endeavour is the second to last shuttle launch for the US, ever…at least right now I couldn’t fathom how another after Atlantis later this year would take off.  NASA is working on other ways to transport people into space, and hopefully by opening up space exploration to the public, imaginations will be able to soar and we’ll succeed in this endeavor.  🙂 I am going to Kennedy Space Center again with hopes of watching the RSS retraction on Sunday around noon, and in the wee hours of Monday morning will be back there again to watch Endeavour take off.  I hope I can capture the magic of the event, even just a little!  I know it will be burned into my heart and mind forever.  I want to share it with all my family and friends who won’t be able to be there with me…even though they can watch it with me on NASA Tv.

 

There are many things that could go wrong.  There is currently a 70% chance the weather will cooperate, I hope that is enough in our favor!  I know that another malfunction could occur.  I also know that my financial situation isn’t strong enough to allow me to go back again for a while (probably until my vacation there in November).  I guess as a wise man said, “Only Time Will Tell!”

 

May 082011
 

 

I’m sorry that this update has been a while in coming, but the day of the Scrub of the launch of Endeavour, I just was so disappointed I couldn’t write about it.  I just talked myself into editing the photos and videos from that day and posting them.  So along with that I can now share the end of (hopefully Part 1) of my NASA Tweetup adventures.

Friday dawned rainy and a bit breezy, but all the news we were receiving was that by afternoon it would clear and there was a 70% chance of launch due to weather.  We headed out to the Tweetup and made sure we were early to set up Tripods along the shoreline.  We had a bit of a longer walk because of the increased number of people coming we had to park further out.  Went and set up my Tripod right along the shoreline of the Media area, and was quite happy with my spot.  As I was placing my Tripod I turned around and watch a happy couple who had both managed to become a part of the Tweetup get engaged, right by the count-down clock.  That added some romance to the Tweetup.  🙂  It put a big smile on my face.  I walked around and got a few pictures, but my plan really was to get most my pictures during the launch.

The morning programs began and we had several speakers including 2 Astronauts: Ricky Arnold and Leland Melvin.  Then we had a speaker who was ultimately in charge of deciding if the weather was in favor of the launch.  Then it was time for a lunch break before we headed out towards the road to watch the Astrovan drive past on it’s way to the Launch Pad, stopping at the VAB right in front of us.  This was the part of the day when things went down hill.  We saw the Helicoptor that leads the van, then we saw the escort and the van…it pulled into the VAB like it was supposed to…BUT…it stayed there longer then it should have…and when it finally came back out, it turned around and it was then that we learned that the Launch was a Scrub due to a problem they were having with a heating unit on the Shuttle.  The disappointment all around was strongly felt.  We were told that they were going to try again on Sunday or Monday.  Some of us had time constraints.  But it was in a way due to the scrub that I made a few closer friends then I would have met otherwise.

I stayed a little longer hoping that things would work out for the launch, which it didn’t and has now been postponed at least twice more, but I have to say, I wouldn’t have traded the experiences I had for anything!  With any luck I will be able to go back to see the Launch.  We are still cleared to go back whenever the Launch does occur, we just won’t have our nice tent with electrical outlets and extra wi-fi in the area for us to communicate with the world.  But if I can work it out at work, I will be there, with all my friends sharing the moment when Endeavour lifts off into the heavens and vanishes into space.  🙂