Aug 282011
 

Wrote this a while ago and swear I published it, but here it is unpublished, but it deserves to be put up, so here it is.  🙂

 

In the last few months I have found myself learning more and more about NASA and the shuttle program down at Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island in Florida. I lucked into a spot at the NASA STS134 Tweetup and was able to make it back for the second launch attempt as the first one was scrubbed for a couple weeks. I have re-found the enthusiasm for space exploration that I had as a child watching Space Camp, this was back when each launch was played in our classrooms, that is until the fateful day that Challenger exploded during launch.  I’m not sure I ever saw a launch live at school again.  It is sad that a tragedy such as that could stop us following NASA as closely.  Maybe it was because it was hard to explain to school children that the astronauts on that shuttle were dead and what that meant for us as a nation, those families, or the program itself.

 

Space is full of unknowns.  There have been deaths along the way.  There were two shuttle explosions, Challenger and later Columbia after their mission was completed that occurred during their re-entry.  There were deaths before that, almost at the very beginning of the United States space exploration, Apollo 1 caught fire during a Launch-pad test.  Apollo 1 showed the risks.  A cellphone that we carry in our pockets now has more technology in it then they had when the first manned spacecraft went into space.  If we could launch a man into space with that little bit of technology, what can we do now?

 

It has amazed me during the last few months how many people seemed to be relieved that the program was ending, stating that the cost was too much.  When informed how little NASA actually gets of the federal budget these people were surprised, they all seemed to think it was much, much more.  They also seemed surprised to learn what all NASA has given us technologically speaking.  They did not know it was NASA who gave us Velcro, Tevlon, Light-weight metal alloys that we use in bathrooms/kitchens/in vehicles, they didn’t know it was communications technology from NASA that helped make modern cellphones available and usable by the public, or the amount of medical research that is done in space.

 

Other people were unaware of the discontinuation of the shuttle program and shocked to learn about it.  They just assumed it was going as strong as ever.  Some don’t realize that the shuttle program was around for about 30 years now, that it could only ever go to low earth orbit.  I acknowledge that now that the international space station is build, our need of the shuttle is less.  They don’t need the large cargo bay to hall up parts to the station.  I do think we’d be better off keeping one shuttle in working order, just in case, until we have our next vehicle available for space travel.  (This point has been proved with the crash of the Russian vehicle into space…could ending our shuttle program bring about the ending of the ISS many years earlier then planned?)

 

Where is NASA going now?  Will there be further manned space flights from NASA, from the US?  I don’t know.  I sure hope so, and I hope that the American people realize the importance of that dream, of reaching for the stars!  The dream of being an astronaut is important for our children.  It keeps the imagination open and allows us the dream of going out into the universe, away from Earth to try to find other lifeforms.  It keeps the imaginations going and expands our technology.  It forces us to come up with better communication modes, of faster ways to travel, of ways to keep our astronauts healthy in an anti gravitational environment. The problems we have discovered from space travel have pushed us to keep motivated to change, to find better ways of doing things, and to grow as a people.  Who would have thought when the space shuttle program started back in the 1970s and 1980s that one of our closest allies in the 2000s would be Russia?  That they would be one of the key allies to get our astronauts into space now that we are ending our space shuttle program?

 

The dream is alive and we need to keep reaching for the stars.  We need to keep our children’s eyes looking up.  As tight as our budgets here on earth are, the jobs that are created by the NASA programs are invaluable to our future.  People just need to open their eyes, see what is there, and dream of touching it.

 

 

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 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.  🙂

 

 

Apr 042011
 

So last night before bed I was reading Twitter and Facebook and saw that potentially the STS134 launch of Endeavour was delayed at least 10 days.  The delay is being said to have many causes, but the most important being that Russia had a launch of a re-supply craft that was to scheduled prior to this mission from NASA that included a time sensitive experiment.  NASA had hoped that the Russian craft would just orbit until they left or that they would delay their launch, but due to the time sensitivity of the experiment Russia did not want to orbit or reschedule.

 

I admit my heart sunk a little and I prayed that it wasn’t true because I’d already changed my work schedule, booked flight, rental car, and written to my Aunt to see if I could stay with her.  The good news was that the new date that was looking likely for the launch was April 29, and looking at my schedule I was already off April 27-29…only problem was that there is little chance of me getting back to work the 30th, but I can work with that.  I have time to change my work schedule again.  I admit I also asked about getting my original schedule back for the week of the 17 because I don’t want to work Good Friday and Easter Saturday if I don’t have to!

 

This morning I woke up with an instant message from John informing me that NASA finally confirmed the move so I got up and went straight to the computer to work on changing my flight (which is extremely easy since I booked through Southwest Airlines).  I’d already adjusted a few times, so I knew that step was going to be easy.  The next step was to e-mail my Aunt, then change my rental car dates, and I also booked a hotel room just in case because I knew my cousin’s graduation from college is coming up and that these new dates could potentially interfere with that.  Luckily, that wasn’t the case, but my new hotel is right at the Kennedy Space Center…so now I need to decide if I want to commute a lot further, wonder if it is just more of a win for me to keep the hotel near the space center now that I have it.  My Aunt totally understands that as she even mentioned getting a hotel, not having to deal with getting out of that area after the launch…I hear the traffic is horrendous!

 

So here I sit with new flight plans, new rental car reservation, and a couple places to stay and time to decide.  I just need to finalize my work schedule.  Strongly thinking about finding an as needed person to just ask to take my shift.  Hope luck is on my side for this as it was the first time I needed a schedule swap!

 

 

Apr 032011
 

Pieces for my upcoming trip are coming together, and I can’t help but have excitement course through my veins and nervous system as I sit here and think about it!  I have my airfare (Southwest!  gotta love their policy for photographers…and gear), I have a place to stay (MANY thanks to my Aunt for letting me stay with her in eastern Orlando!), and I have a car rented.  I want to find someone to carpool with as it is always more fun to share adventures…and also easier on the pocketbook to share gas money costs!  Whomever I carpool with just has to have room for my camera gear, as that is definitely going with me!

 

Today I started working on getting gear ready for the trip.  I do need to ask John to clean my cameras and lenses yet, but I disassembled and cleaned up my tripod with John’s help today…although I did realize that it was broken and of course the pieces to my Manfrotto 3221 tripod are no longer made.  That makes it harder to fix, but John found a used one on Adorama that is supposed to be in excellent condition, so bought that and I now have my old one for parts.  🙂  Still considering selling a few of the parts online to get some extra $$ too.  Will wait to see what condition new one is in for sure, but haven’t gotten a bad item from Adorama yet!  Love that company.  They are fast to deliver and service is great!

 

I’ll keep sharing my adventure with you as things occur!!  Loved my first NASA Tweetup experience in DC when I got to meet Astronaut TJ Creamer on July 29, 2010, but this is a homerun experience…that was a 1st base experience!