Last Chance to See (Part 16) July 20, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Movies & TV, Space Shuttle
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As we write this post, we remember that on this date in 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Today is the anniversary of humankind’s first steps on the lunar surface, when Neil Armstrong stepped off the lunar module at 2:56 UTC (July 21), or 10:56 p.m. EDT today (for our recent post on time, click HERE).
As we post this, we are likely hours away from the symbolic end of the space shuttle program. Atlantis is scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center at 5:56 a.m. EDT, with another shot about ninety minutes later. By tomorrow evening, the precise anniversary of Armstrong’s small step and humankind’s giant leap, the last functioning space shuttle will be a historical artifact. (For our related post on shuttles as artifacts, click HERE.)
On Monday, we finalized media credentials with Dryden Flight Research Center, in case the space shuttle lands at Edwards Air Force Base here in Southern California. After we moved here three years ago, one of our first trips out of the neighborhood was to see Discovery land. Seeing the last mission conclude here would suit the story we’d like to tell.
Yesterday, the email to the credentialed press made it clear that Kennedy Space Center wants to host the final shuttle party. Edwards AFB isn’t even a back-up landing site tomorrow. If the weather isn’t good in Florida on Thursday, Atlantis will orbit for another day and try again for KSC, though Edwards will be the back-up site for Friday and, if necessary, Saturday.
The weather on the Space Coast looks good—improving, the email said—for tomorrow’s landing. (for our most recent discussion of weather, click HERE.) NASA has a slew of events scheduled after the landing, with Charlie Bolden, NASA’s Administrator, and STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson scheduled to give remarks at the runway at 7:45 a.m. Following that, there’s a full day of press briefings, comments from administrators and crew, photo opportunities with Atlantis outside the Orbiter Processing Facility, and employee appreciation all around. Emotions will be reeling, adrenaline will keep journalists on the story for hours, and everyone will draw this landing out as long as they can before leaving KSC.
Meanwhile, we’ll be in California, three hours behind and thousands of miles away. We may spend a good portion of our usual sleep time watching NASA-TV. That’s okay. We’ve been part of the media fanfare before. Now, it may well be time for us to contemplate the end of the space shuttle program from some distance. As with the frenzy at KSC tomorrow, we’ll draw out our “Last Chance to See” series a bit longer, too, unable to stop before we’ve seen the landing and articulated some larger meaning. Stick with us as we work our way through just a little more.
Last Chance to See (Part 15) July 19, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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From here, though, it was just open ground between us and it. We stayed here for a few minutes to watch and photograph it. If any closer approach did in fact scare it off, then this was our last opportunity. ~ Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, Last Chance to See
Space shuttle Atlantis has undocked from the International Space Station, which means the end of the very last shuttle mission draws nigh. In this post, we turn our attention to the STS-135 crew, to the four individuals who are the last shuttle astronauts ever. Below, we have two sets of photographs representing the last chances we had to see this crew together before the mission, first during the rollover of Atlantis from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the Vehicle Assembly Building and then during the walkout to the Astrovan on the morning that the mission began.
COMMANDER CHRIS FERGUSEN hails from Philadelphia and is the drummer for the band Max Q. STS-135 is his third space shuttle mission.
PILOT DOUG HURLEY flew on one previous shuttle mission and has been training with the rest of the STS-135 crew since September.
MISSION SPECIALIST SANDY MAGNUS originally hails from Belleville, Illinois. Since we, too, are native Illinoisans, we’ll give Sandy Magnus a few column inches here. Of Belleville, she says, “It was really quite a nice place to grow up, very solid, well-grounded community, lots of very nice people, and I enjoyed it.” She goes further, talking about the importance of her upbringing: “We’re very well-grounded in the Midwest. People are friendly; they value hard work and discipline and help each other. It’s just a really nice community. I really value the fact that I got to grow up in such a great place.”
After working as a stealth engineer, she was selected for astronaut training in 1996. After two years of training, she qualified for a mission assignment. She’s travelled to the International Space Station on two trips prior to STS-135, one of which involve a 4-1/2 month stay. Another astronaut on the ISS at the time was Mike Fincke, the American record-holder for time-in-space after STS-134. Among her assigned tasks, what else did she do in orbit for that long? “I took some pictures of the [Belleville] area and showed them to my family, found the street my mom lives on, sent her that.”
One of her main goals on STS-135 was to make sure that she brought back as much trash from the ISS as possible. The shuttle’s payload bay is far larger than what a Soyuz capsule can hold, so taking away as much unneeded stuff as possible is important. “Yes, we are very enthusiastic in our use of packing material here at NASA and the goal is to not leave a lot of that excess up on station because it’s just trash that has to be gotten rid of later, and one of my personal goals for this mission is to minimize the amount of [packing] foam that we leave on the station.” A unique mission goal, which was accomplished today, was photographing the ISS from as many different angles as possible, for the engineers to assess, of course, but also perhaps for posterity.
MISSION SPECIALIST REX WALHEIM is a Californian aloft on the shuttle for the third time, all three of which have been aboard Atlantis.
ROLLOVER OF ATLANTIS
STS-135 CREW WALKOUT
Last Chance to See (Part 14) July 17, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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When a thirty-year program like the Space Transportation System, the space shuttle, comes to an end, it’s difficult not to focus on the past. Looking back into history, reflecting on accomplishments, failures, and missed opportunities is only natural. It’s part of what we do as human beings. But it’s also deeply embedded in human nature to look to the future.
For NASA and human space exploration, a big part of the immediate future is the handoff of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) missions to the commercial sector. To paraphrase the point that Launch manager Mike Moses made during the STS-135 post-launch news conference, humans have been going into LEO for more than fifty years. We understand it well, and it’s a straightforward exercise to write the design specifications for LEO missions. It’s time for NASA to let others take up this aspect of spaceflight. And so NASA is overseeing Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS).
Last weekend on the Space Coast, we had the opportunity to see a part of that future in the form of the SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) Dragon capsule. This particular spacecraft was launched empty (all right, almost empty), or unmanned in NASA vernacular, on December 8, 2010. Dragon successfully orbited the earth twice. This event marked the first time that anyone other than a nation had launched and recovered from space a space capsule designed to hold human beings. (Dragon is designed to hold as many as seven crew, but that looks like a very cozy ride to us.)
When we saw it on display at SpaceX headquarters just outside Patrick Air Force Base at Cape Canaveral, Dragon certainly seemed used, with some hatches and covers (particularly those covers that shield the parachutes and their lines) missing from its surface. Its bottom heat shield showed signs of the intense fires that greet spacecraft as they return to earth. And yet, it didn’t seem particularly worse for the wear.
Having seen a number of returned Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules at museums around the country, it’s easy to come away with the impression that they were one-time use spacecraft. It’s hard to imagine the work that would have to go into them to send them back into space. But the Dragon capsule is designed to be reusable, and it looks it. Touch up the paint, reload the parachutes and the pyrotechnics, slather high-tech foam goo into the cracks, and Voilà! It’ll soon be time to head back into space. Okay, it’s probably not that straightforward, but you can look at the Dragon capsule and at least get the sense that it’s possible to return it to space.
And that’s just what SpaceX wants to do. The next planned mission is a fly-by of the International Space Station (ISS) that will, if all goes well, keep Dragon up for five days. After that, the idea is to mate with ISS and take over the role NASA has played in resupply of that global project.
Last Chance to See (Part 13) July 16, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Museums & Archives, Space Shuttle
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And this computer, which was called the Earth, was so large that it was frequently mistaken for a planet—especially by the strange apelike beings who roamed its surface, totally unaware that they were simply part of a gigantic computer program.
And this is very odd, because without that fairly simple and obvious piece of knowledge, nothing that ever happened on the Earth could possibly make the slightest bit of sense.
~Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
As we try to sort through our Space Coast adventures, one thing that has surprised us and only now started making the slightest bit of sense is that we have become part of the story. The story about the end of the space shuttle program and about the last launch last week is about technology. It’s also about science and economics. As we’ve written in other posts, what interests us in our topics is often the people and the ideas that people have. The (perhaps temporary) end of U.S. manned spaceflight is about the astronauts and engineers, but it’s also about those of us strange apelike creatures who were born into the space age and grew into adulthood with the space shuttle.
In November, we contacted the “science dude” at the O.C. Register to let him know two locals were going to see Discovery launch. It wasn’t pressing news, but he spent some time talking with us and wrote up a good story. See that HERE. Of course, Discovery didn’t actually launch in November while we were there, and we couldn’t get back to the Space Coast for its eventual launch because we were at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference having a great time with thousands of other writers.
So we were a little surprised when he gave us another call a week before Atlantis was scheduled to launch. See that article HERE. Lofty Ambitions gets the last word. We also got a brief mention in the post-launch piece HERE.
Last Tuesday, as we were gathering some belongings for our trip to the Space Coast, someone from the newsroom at the BBC Online contacted us. They were looking for bloggers who were going to be at the space shuttle launch, and they’d run across Lofty Ambitions. Were we interested in providing content for their coverage? Sure!
They sent us a list of questions, asking for 300-400 words of response. We answered their questions and pointed them to our Lofty Ambitions channel on YouTube. You can see our write-up and video HERE.
On launch day, BBC Online followed Doug’s tweets (and revised them using British spelling), along with those of other tweeps watching the launch. BBC Online also included one of our photos. You can see all that HERE. Citizen journalists? Well, not exactly, because we were actual journalists with media credentials. Content providers? Maybe, but that sounds drab. What exactly are we doing?
In a photo slideshow of the last launches of each remaining orbiter, BBC Online included our photo of the STS-135 crew during the walkout just hours before Atlantis launched. That’s a press event we almost missed, but we ended up getting some amazing shots. Sandy Magnus seemed the most enthusiastic, almost bursting with excitement. See that HERE.
The post-launch ponderings of the bloggers that BBC Online followed are HERE. Lofty Ambitions writes, “Then came the sound, the increasingly bright blaze of light, and the brief flash of heat as the shuttle struggled to clear the launch tower, all reinforced the fact that you were seeing something spectacular. Very quickly, people were gasping and shaking from the external force and the internal emotion.” Indeed, the humidity in Florida on July 8 made the launch an especially visceral experience.
“Your Week in Pictures,” a BBC weekly retrospective, featured a photo of the Lofty Ambitions duo in front of Atlantis on the launch pad the afternoon before blast off. We were soaking wet from a torrential downpour while we were waiting for the press buses to start loading, and the mosquitoes had started biting. But we were happy as all get out to be only yards away from the space shuttle just before the last-ever mission. See that one HERE.
We found ourselves in a new role this past week, with coverage locally and across the Atlantic. This responsibility or opportunity extended, of course, naturally from our work on this blog. We have more to say about aviation and spaceflight, science of the twentieth century and beyond, and writing as a couple. It’s heartening to know there’s an audience of other strange apelike beings roaming the surface out there.
To top all of this off, as we were polishing up this post today, the August issue of Air & Space Magazine arrived. Our article about the Roger and Roberta Boisjoly Collection in Chapman University’s archives is on page 12. It’s not available online, but you remember bookstores, don’t you?
Last Chance to See (Part 12) July 15, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Collaboration, Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Cognitive Science, Last Chance to See, Music, Space Shuttle
“Jet lag,” muttered one of his friends, “long trip from California. Really mucks you up for a couple of days.”
“I don’t think he’s been there at all,” muttered another. “I wonder where he has been. And what’s happened to him.”
~Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
In our blog anniversary post (click HERE for that one), we tried to make a sort of sense of what we’ve been doing over the past year. That was on July 1, before we headed off to the Space Coast for the last-ever space shuttle launch. This past week has been an intense physical and emotional experience in which we’ve lost track of time. We’re settling back into our regular routines; Anna went to the dry cleaner and the grocery store; Doug returned to his daily job at the library. But our attention remains on STS-135 too.
Atlantis and the International Space Station are now orbiting our planet at roughly 17,500 miles an hour. That means the astronauts experience a sunrise and sunset every hour-and-a-half or so, making for more than 15 shuttle space days for every Earth day, if we define a day by sunrise. But shuttle astronauts in space don’t mark time that way. Instead, their clock (and that big countdown clock you saw on NASA-TV and CNN last Friday) ticks off mission elapsed time (MET). At twenty-four hours MET, Flight Day 2 begins.
At the beginning of each flight day, the astronauts are awakened with a song from Earth. Music marks time for them in a less precise, more culturally inflected way than MET. On Flight Day 2, that wake-up song was “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay, picked by Pilot Doug Hurley. Coldplay has awakened shuttle astronauts three times before.
For Flight Day 3, Commander Chris Ferguson chose “Mr. Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra. It’s the fourth time E.L.O. has awakened a shuttle crew.
And what did Mission Specialist and native Illinoisan Sandy Magnus choose for Flight Day 4? “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba. I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down. Not a bad message for NASA right now.
Flight Day 5 started with “More” by Matthew West, chosen by Mission Specialist Rex Walheim.
On Flight Day 6, Elton John offered a special message for the STS-135 crew. “Rocket Man” woke up this crew and the crews of four previous shuttle crews.
As part of his message to STS-135 on Flight Day 7, Michael Stipe said, “I recorded ‘Man on The Moon’ for NASA in Venice, Italy, where Galileo first presented to the Venetian government his eight-power telescope, and in 1610 wrote ‘The Starry Messenger’ (Sidereus Nuncius), an account of his early astronomical discoveries that altered forever our view of our place in the universe.” R.E.M.’s “Happy Shiny People” has awakened two previous shuttle crews.
“Good Day Sunshine” by Paul McCartney, with a cheery message from the former Beatle, roused the crew on Flight Day 8 at 12:59a.m. EDT today, on Friday, July 15. They had a bit of a computer problem at the beginning of their sleep shift, so NASA let the astronauts sleep a half-hour later than the planned schedule. They are in the midst of transferring the payload to the ISS, and they talked with President Obama and reporters today.
These last few days back home in California, we wish that our time was as organized as that of astronauts in orbit. The odd hours we’ve kept this last week in Florida and the day of travel on Tuesday, with the three-hour time change, have left our heads spinning. We’re coming off that odd mix of exhaustion and adrenaline, feeling sleepy and alert simultaneously, but starting to get back on track with things we’d put aside and shored up.
What might it mean to measure time according to our missions, with a version of MET? The mission clock would begin at zero and elapse as we (presumably) made progress on the project over time. Blog elapsed time: +379 days. Novel elapsed time: +5 years, if we include research and breaks for moving and other writing projects. Or perhaps, the clock should stop when we are working on another project, like a hold in the countdown clock before launch. Though they have a multitude of tasks, the astronauts are focused on a single mission; they can’t stop the MET clock while they draft a short story because they can’t interrupt the mission tasks for other ideas that come to mind. If something is scheduled for +4 days, it must occur on the fourth day of the mission whether the shuttle’s mission begins on its originally scheduled launch date or, after a delay, two days or two months later.
On the Earth’s surface, we move among several projects at a time. We write a blog while holding down day jobs. We write articles together and separately and have larger writing projects too. Just as it would quickly become silly for orbiting astronauts to count days by each sunrise they view, those of us under the great influence of gravity cannot keep accurate track using mission elapsed time. The way a person measures time must fit the circumstances, while also making sense with the way the larger world works.
It turns out that the shuttle astronauts are not beholden only to MET. They are moving between MET and the coordinated universal time (UTC) of the International Space Station (ISS). UTC is a carefully devised standard time, a more precise replacement for Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), with even leap seconds added to sync up UTC with the Earth’s rotation. The second (and millisecond) are constant, but larger units can vary in order to keep universal time accurate. Computers also use UTC. Because the ISS is an ongoing project, a destination for many individual shuttle missions over the years, using an MET clock would run up days into meaningless numbers. Elapsed time isn’t that important to know on the ISS. The unload the shuttle payload when it gets there, not according to some schedule the ISS itself has. So that the STS-135 crew can move between the shuttle and ISS time zones without getting too confused, the space shuttle has a UTC clock too.
Music provides yet another way to mark time, both as a daily wake-up demarcation and in a larger sense. Songs stick with us. Admit it, you thumped to Chumbawamba in the fall of 1997. How old were you when E.L.O. was churning out the hits in the 1970s? Ah, “Rocket Man” and 1972: the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, The Price is Right begins and Bewitched ends. Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 conclude U.S. manned spaceflight (or so it seemed at the time).
As Daniel Levitin puts it in This Is Your Brain on Music, “The story of your brain on music is the story of an exquisite orchestration of brain regions, involving both the oldest and newest parts of the human brain, and regions as far apart as the cerebellum in the back of the head and the frontal lobes just behind your eyes. It involves a precision choreography of neurochemical release and uptake between logical prediction systems and emotional reward systems. When we love a piece of music, it reminds us of other music we have heard, and it activates memory traces of emotional times in our lives.”
He goes on to explain why you may have a particular affinity for “Rocket Man” or “Tubthumping.” “Researchers point to the teen years as the turning point for musical preferences. It is around the age of ten or eleven that most children take on music as a real interest, even those children who didn’t express such an interest in music earlier. As adults, the music we tend to be nostalgic for, the music that feels like it is ‘our’ music, corresponds to the music we heard during these years. [...] Part of the reason we remember songs from our teenage years is because those years were times of self-discovery, and as a consequence, they were emotionally charged; in general, we tend to remember things that have an emotional component because our amygdala and neurotransmitters act in concert [hah, a pun!] to ‘tag’ the memories as something important.”
Chris Ferguson was 16 years old, that emotionally charged time of self-discovery, when “Mr. Blue Sky” was released in 1978. In 1997, when Chumbawamba hit the charts, Sandy Magnus had recently been selected for astronaut training and began her work at Johnson Space Center that led to her first shuttle mission in 2002. Nothing in Rex Walheim’s official NASA biography indicates why 2004, when “More” was released, might have been a particularly emotionally charged time for him, but that song was the most-played song on Christian radio that year. In 2008, when Coldplay released “Viva la Vida,” Doug Hurley was training for his first space shuttle mission.
At breakfast at the Village Inn in Titusville, this past week, we heard “Reunited” by Peaches & Herb, a song we hadn’t heard in years, a song that was on the K-tel record that Anna received at her boy–girl birthday party in eighth grade.
On one of our previous trips to the Space Coast, the radio in our rental car had been left set to FM 96.5 when we picked it up. This station plays a mix of classic rock that we don’t listen to much anymore, but it replicates the playlist of 97X, the radio station from Moline, Illinois, of Doug’s teen years. (As a curious aside, Doug’s high school locker number was 97. Each fall for the four years that Doug attended AHS, an “X” mysteriously appeared next to the locker number, making his locker 97X.) The Orlando station’s signal is strong, the songs familiar fodder for our NASA-visit mode.
Great White’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy,” the 1989 cover of a 1975 Ian Hunter song (Ian was a founding member of Mott the Hoople, a name that has the feel of a Douglas Adams novel), was in heavy rotation this past week. After not hearing that song for more than two decades, we probably heard the ode to groupies and casual sex every day last week. For Doug, “Once Bitten Twice Shy” calls to mind the summer of 1989, when he studied Russian at Beloit College. The song and that moment in time that it recalls link together several of the themes that we’ve been exploring. Who’d have predicted from the vantage of that late-1980s summer, still several months before the fall of the Berlin Wall and more than two years before the end of the Soviet Union, that today Russian would be an official language on the space station (all U.S. astronauts who serve extended periods on the ISS speak Russian) and that the United States will require Soyuz rockets to carry astronauts into low-earth orbit?
Last Chance to See (Part 11) July 14, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration, Writing.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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The prisoners sat in Poetry Appreciation chairs—strapped in. Vogons suffered no illusions as to the regard their works were generally held in. Their early attempts at composition had been part of a bludgeoning insistence that they be accepted as a properly evolved and cultured race, but now the only thing that kept them going was sheer bloody-mindedness. ~Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
By all-star orchestra, they dine in space
in a long steel muscle so fast it floats,
in a light waltz they lie still as amber
watching Earth stir in her sleep beneath them.
In zero gravity, their hearts will be light,
not three pounds of blood, dream and gristle.
When they were young, the sky was a tree
whose cool branches they climbed,
sweaty in August, and now they are the sky
children imagine as invisible limbs.
Excerpt from Mary Jo Salter’s “A Kiss in Space”
That the picture
in The Times is a blur
is itself an accuracy. Where
this has happened is so remote
that clarity would misrepresent
not only distance but our feeling
about distance: just as
the first listeners at the telephone
were somehow reassured to hear
static that interfered with hearing
(funny word, static, that conveys
the atom’s restlessness), we’re
not even now—at the far end
of the century—entirely ready
to look at satellites for mere
resolution. When the Mir
invited the first American
astronaut to swim in the pool
of knowledge with Russians, he floated
exactly as he would have in space
stations of our own: no lane
to stay in, no line to determine [...]
Excerpt from Anna Leahy’s “After Challenger”
Was there a red light flashing, a split-second memory?
Mark and remember this
like the first walk on the moon, one giant leap,
I should remember something
that places me and marks my beginning[.]
Last Chance to See (Part 10) July 13, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration, Video Interviews.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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“Unfortunately I got stuck on the Earth for rather longer than I intended,” said Ford. “I came for a week and got stuck for fifteen years.” ~ Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
That’s a little how we feel too about our space shuttle adventure. We didn’t quite understand what we were getting into. Originally, our idea was to see one of the last launches, in large part because we didn’t want the shuttle program, which has marked our adulthoods, to end without us having the opportunity to see a launch in person. We first traveled to Florida in November expecting to the last launch of Discovery. Since then, over the last eight months, we have spent about a month on the Space Coast, seeing each of the three remaining orbiters on the launch pad ready to go and witnessing the last two launches ever of the space shuttle. Though we made some plans, we couldn’t have foreseen how our adventure has unfolded.
Today, we have a special video interview with Stephanie Stilson, NASA’s Director for Shuttle Transition and Retirement. Stephanie began her work with NASA as a college intern twenty-some years ago and only recently moved from being Flow Director for the orbiter Discovery, a job that ended, to her new role overseeing the decommissioning process for all three orbiters and coordinating their transfer to their future museum homes.
In the spring, when we were at Kennedy Space Center for Endeavour‘s not-launch and then launch, we talked with Stephanie by phone, and we wanted to follow up because Endeavour is the orbiter coming back home to California, where we live. This time, our media escort Robert Smith took us over to the Orbiter Processing Facility to meet with Stephanie in person. She a fast talker, full of enthusiam for what she does. And yes, that’s Endeavour right above her head.
Last Chance to See (Part 9) July 11, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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We crept closer. Eventually we got to within about twenty-five yards, and Charles signaled us to stop. We were close enough. Quite close enough. We were in fact astoundingly close to it. ~Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine, Last Chance to See
This morning, the Lofty Ambitions duo was in fact astoundingly close to the last-ever space shuttle solid rocket booster (SRB) going through the locks at Port Canaveral. And astoundingly close to manatees, brown pelicans, and cormorants, too. AND WE HAVE LOTS OF PHOTOS HERE!
Yesterday, the ship Liberty Star brought the right SRB in from the ocean, where it dropped from the sky when the orbiter Atlantis was about two minutes into flight. We missed seeing that SRB in the canal by about ten minutes, then missed it later in the locks because we had an interview 20 miles away. Last night, Freedom Star was scheduled to come into view at about 8:00 p.m. with the left SRB, but it was hours late, and we couldn’t hold out.
This morning, undaunted, we rose at 6:30 a.m. and headed for the locks. Freedom Star arrived there on time, just before 9:00 a.m. That ship was too heavy, with 11 feet of draft, and couldn’t take the SRB over the shoal just beyond the locks. What we saw, then, was Freedom Star pull into the locks, crew in three small zodiac boats detach the SRB and drag it through the locks, and the zodiac crews then attach the SRB to Liberty Star for the remaining distance to Kennedy Space Center.
We had a great vantage for this historic moment. Enjoy the photographs!
Last Chance to See (Part 8) July 10, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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Murray Bost Henson was a journalist on one of the papers with small pages and big print. It would be pleasant to be able to say that he was none the worse for this but, sadly, this was not the case. He happened to be the only journalist Arthur knew, so Arthur phoned him anyway. ~ Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
We remain on the Space Coast, and as we contemplate our experiences this week, we have a few minor tidbits to share, things we’ve learned or newly considered.
1. You CAN catch up on sleep. Between Wednesday morning, when we rose from bed to begin this current adventure, to Friday evening, after we saw Atlantis launch and, later, stayed up to watch Beyond Atlantis on CNN, we slept just 4-1/2 hours out of 60. We found that 14 hours of sleep Friday night put us right back on track.
2. CNN is now at the Kennedy Space Center doing a special report. We saw Anderson Cooper at the launch, and we hung out with CNN’s John Zarella, the host of Beyond Atlantis, during our visit for Endeavour‘s launch and Atlantis‘s rollover. The News Center is officially closed to all but CNN, so we are posting our blog piece at the McDonald’s.
3. The regular KSC press corps consists of space geeks who know their stuff and believe space exploration is important. Sure, they have various criticisms, too. But they recognized that Friday’s post-launch news briefing was the last one that would bring them together as a group of strangers who had formed relationships over years of intermittent gatherings here. When Mike Moses and Mike Leinbach, the two launch managers who always show up for the briefings to actually talk about what’s going on, entered the room, it only took one person to start the loud round of applause. (And who might that instigator have been?)
4. Journalists ask questions. Journalists aren’t afraid to not know even basic facts. Journalists share information. One reporter asked Doug, “It’s Johnson Space Center, right?” Another reporter asked Anna when the first Moon landing occurred. Lack of knowledge or information is a problem continually tackled by journalists.
5. The KSC media officers will answer whatever question is posed to them. Allard Beutel explained to us that there are various reasons astronauts may be in different seats during descent than they were for ascent, as will be the case for Sts-135. The commander and pilot keep their assigned seats, but others sometimes swap. For a large crew (not the small crew of STS-135), a couple of astronauts on the middeck may want a view and, therefore, swap seats for reentry with a couple of crew on the flight deck, where there are windows. Or the seat switching may be related to tasks for which each astronaut is primarily responsible.
We have lots more to share, but we’re off for a couple of news-gathering activities this afternoon. Keep checking back at Lofty Ambitions throughout the STS-135 mission. In fact, if you don’t want to miss any tidbits along the way, subscribe (see the top of the right sidebar).
Last Chance to See (Part 7: LAUNCH VIDEO) July 8, 2011Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: Last Chance to See, Space Shuttle
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Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-like life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. ~ Douglas Adams, opening of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Earlier today, we posted a bunch of PHOTOS! If you haven’t seen them, scroll down or click HERE.
Here is our very own Last Chance to See VIDEO of the last launch ever of space shuttle Atlantis or any space shuttle: