Last Chance to See (Part 9)

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

Left SRB with Bird Overhead

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!

Freedom Star with last-ever shuttle SRB

Avian Observer

Port Canaveral Locks
Detaching the SRB from Freedom Star
Manatee Observers

Avian Observer

Attaching SRB to Liberty Star
Liberty Star heads to KSC
Human Observers: Lofty Ambitions!

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