We’re here. We’re actually here.
It is launch day for STS-129, the next to last launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. We settled into our seats at T-3 hours and holding, waiting for the crew to head out the vehicle and load up and get locked in (a new meaning for load & lock?)
It is a fair day here in Cape Canaveral, with partial clouds, 4-5 ft seas, and low wind. Chances of launch are currently 70%, but in this room of 101 people from 21 US states, and 4 additional nations (Morocco, New Zealand, UK, and Canada), we are going to keep on believing this-is-happening-right-now until someone makes us stop.
As a little girl, one of my earliest memories is watching the shuttle contrails from landings at Edwards Air Force base. From our California home, we could just make out this white dot in the sky, and I remember running back and force from the TV, where chase jet images showed the shuttle in detail, and the backyard, where I could only imagine what it was so high up in the sky.
Now, an adult who set aside my dreams of being part of NASA HSF (Human Space Flight) to instead focus on my NASA SMD (Space Mission Directorate) reality, it is amazing to still find my way to a launch, and to find myself so close – able to reach out and touch the launch clock. It is an odd way to bookend a life. I was 7-years old when Columbia first flew, and if the last launch goes as planned in September 2010, I’ll be 36 when the program ends.
A lifetime of dreaming of flying on the wings of great white bird must replaced with a reformulation of my parents and grandparents more encapsulated dreams. With Constellation, the next generation of astronauts – my generation turned astronaut – will buckle back in to capsules.
But while Constellation moves NASA in a new direction, the commercial space program is continuing to imagine new things never thought of in the days of Glenn and Aldrain. With SpaceShipTwo and Virgin Galactic, we’re looking at new ways fly white winged birds into the inky black of space.
We are at T minus less than 3 hours and counting. There are two more holds. And there are 101 hearts willing away the clouds and wishing for clear check lists and smooth skies.
We are at T minus less than 3 hours and counting, and if all goes well in 3 real hours we’ll be watching Space Shuttle Atlantis launch into a clear blue sky.
For of us that cant stand next to the countdown clock NASA tv is covering the launch right now and you can stream it off NASA.gov
Green light for launch!
What do you have to do to actually watch the launch from the stands? (other than just flying down there of course :-))
If one wants to know about the countdown, at what times things happen and what all the letters stand for you should check out http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/countdown/count.html
In 1981 (I think it was) I went down to the cape to see the first shuttle launch. I didn’t think they’d have a successful reentry, (I didn’t trust the tiles, you see), so I wanted to see it take off.
My parents had a condo in Cocoa Beach that I could stay in, and my Dad came along, so that helped. The people in the condo below them had gotten tickets for entry to the base and viewing the launch from the causeway, lucky ducks! We were just going to watch from the condo balcony.
Then there was a technical problem and the Monday (if I recall correctly) launch was scrubbed. These neighbors couldn’t be there on Tuesday, they had something they had to do, so my brother & I got the passes and saw the launch from the causeway!
Man oh Manaschevitz!
Somewhere I have the 16mm film I shot that day… Ought to locate it and get it transferred to Hi-Def video…
The shuttle landing was on the radio as my Dad & I drove back to Va (we were on I95 in NC at the time) and I was very impressed with the altitude numbers that the chase plane was calling out. It was dropping like a stone! As you would expect it did asymptotically slow down at landing but it was fun to listen to it drop!
I’d like to take my daughters down for the last shuttle launch. Maybe we can get a ticket, maybe not. Even if we were just standing on the beach it’d still be a hoot!