jump to navigation

I Remember California: Recap, Thus Far September 26, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Anna outside Tony Nelson’s office

It’s been two years since we began following the end of the space shuttle program. On September 18, 2010, we published a piece about I Dream of Jeannie. We hadn’t yet visited Cocoa Beach, the Space Coast town where Jeannie and astronaut Anthony Nelson lived in that television series. We hadn’t yet been to Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC) and seen the façade of the building used for Tony Nelson’s NASA office building.

By the end of October two years ago, we were on our way to Florida in hopes of seeing Discovery launch. We talked with Apollo astronauts and shuttle astronauts and saw the story of space exploration as it was told by Kennedy Space Center (KSC). We didn’t see a space shuttle launch that year. Discovery’s launch was delayed by months, and our work schedules prevented us from returning for that orbiter’s last mission. That trip changed our lives, reoriented us in our understanding of ourselves and our sense of our place in history.

Endeavour ready for last launch

We returned to the Space Coast to see Endeavour launch. That took two tries. We had seen Endeavour at Edwards Air Force Base two years before that, in 2008, just a few months after we’d relocated to California. Endeavour seemed like “our” orbiter. Witnessing that launch was like nothing we had ever experienced before. When we returned to KSC for the last launch of Atlantis—the last-ever shuttle launch—Stephanie Stilson gave us a tour of Endeavour in the Orbiter Processing Facility.

So we are following Endeavour all the way home to California. We attended the title transfer at the California Science Center, and we’ve spent the last couple of weeks with Endeavour, first for its takeoff from KSC and then for its landing at DFRC. We got up close to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with the orbiter mated atop and walked around the odd configuration. Then, we saw Endeavour’s final takeoff.

Admittedly, we didn’t rush to LAX to see its last landing. Sure, the inevitable traffic put us off, and we didn’t have time to grab our press credentials before their early cutoff. We were exhausted from lack of sleep to get to the runway early. Days of adrenaline rushes take their toll. Mostly, though, when we saw the takeoff on September 21, 2012, we wanted to hold that memory a while. We wanted Endeavour to remain aloft in our minds for just a few weeks longer.

Doug inside the VAB with Endeavour

In October, we’ll follow Endeavour to its museum home. We’re not sure how, but we’ll be there for what’s being billed as quite a party. And we may well go back to the Space Coast to see Atlantis move over to the KSC Visitor Complex. But for now, we picture Endeavour, aloft and banking slightly, soaring westward.

Part 1: Title for Title

Part 2: I Remember Mike Moses

Part 3: Orbiter Transfer Plans

Part 4: Preparing for Endeavour Departure

Part 5: Background of Endeavour

Part 6: Endeavour Mating (Photos)

Part 7: Endeavour Delay & KSC Tour

Part 8: Endeavour, Still Delayed? (Video of Mate-Demate Backout)

Part 9: Endeavour, Departed. (Video of KSC Takeoff)

Part 10: Hello, Goodbye, and Happy 300th (Video Dryden Landing & Takeoff)

Part 11: 180 Degrees of Endeavour (EXCLUSIVE VIDEO)

Part 12: The Family Photos

Part 13: Endeavour, From Florida to California (Photos)

Part 14: Recap, Thus Far (this post!)

Video Interview: Jeffrey Rudolph, Head of the California Science Center

I Remember California: From Florida to California (Photos) September 24, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Aviation, Space Exploration.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

We are back home again, back at our jobs today. In our absence, no classes were canceled, no big tasks cast aside. Admittedly, our energy reserves are depleted, but we are relatively rested after what was a more demanding week than we expected. We are happy to be back at our desks, talking with students, and also happy for the memories of the last ten days, grateful that it all worked out. Here, we share a photo essay chronicling Endeavour‘s cross-country journey from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Dryden Flight Research Center in California and beyond.

For videos, check the last several posts here at Lofty Ambitions. And we’re gathering a few thoughts to share in Wednesday’s regular post. In the meantime, enjoy the last flight of any space shuttle ever.

Endeavour atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, pulling out of the Mate-Demate Device at Kennedy Space Center on September 17, 2012

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a modified Boeing-747, mated with Endeavour (September 17, 2012)

Note that just a few struts attach the orbiter to the SCA

NASA’s modified C-9 lands at Dryden Flight Research Center. This pathfinder aircraft flies ahead of the SCA to track weather.

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with Endeavour on top, about to land at Dryden Flight Research Center on September 20, 2012

Endeavour on the tarmac at Dryden Flight Research Center on September 20, 2012

Endeavour rolling down the runway for the last takeoff ever on September 21, 2012

Wheels leave the ground on September 21, 2012

Goodbye, Endeavour. See you at the museum.

But wait! Endeavour returns for a final flyover of Dryden Flight Research Center and Palmdale, the orbiters’ birthplace and safe haven. This was the first of many flyovers on September 21, 2012, after which Endeavour and the SCA landed at LAX, to be hangared by United Airlines until the final jaunt to the Calfornia Science Center via street in October.

I Remember California: The Family Photos September 23, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

We spent more than a week following Endeavour‘s final departure from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to its birthplace in California. In posts from the last few days, you can watch Lofty Ambitions’ EXCLUSIVE VIDEO of  “180 Degrees of Endeavour,” as well as our videos of the landing and takeoff at Dryden and our video of Endeavour‘s departure from KSC. In today’s post, we share some of our photos from the last week, our photographic proof that we were there, that we stood in the shadow of the orbiter atop the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, that we saw Endeavour with our own eyes on its last journey aloft.

Anna & Doug in front of the Mate-Demate Device (16 September 2012)


Anna & Doug with Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center (16 September 2012)


Anna with Astronaut Kay Hire and Space Shuttle Endeavour


Doug in the Media Room at Dryden Flight Research Center


Anna & Doug with Endeavour at Dryden (20 September 2012)


Anna & Doug with Endeavour at Dryden (20 September 2012)


Anna & Doug up close with Endeavour at Dryden


Endeavour Takeoff from Dryden (21 September 2012)


Doug watches Endeavour, its last-ever time aloft.


Anna in the space shuttle at the Palmdale, CA, mall. Goodbye, Endeavour.


I Remember California: 180 Degrees of Endeavour September 22, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Temperature at Dryden Flight Research Center: 180 degrees (at least it felt like it)

Perspective on Endeavour: 180 degrees

Almost Two Years of Following the Space Shuttle: Costly and Priceless

I Remember California: Hello, Goodbye, and Happy 300th September 21, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

This is our 300th Lofty Ambitions post. Perhaps this is some tortured logic, but it almost didn’t happen. There would have been a 300th post, but it almost wasn’t about being out in the Mojave desert together and watching Endeavour‘s arrival/departure sequence at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center (DFRC).

On Wednesday, while Anna put her working life back in order after five days spent at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Doug watched Endeavour depart KSC and then made a beeline for Orlando, the airport, and a hoped-for flight back to Orange. The schedule was ambitious. Even after Doug’s arrival back in Southern California, we were facing a same-night drive to Palmdale so that we could be at DFRC the next morning in time to pick up our media credentials and make our way to the viewing area. Weather intervened, and Doug’s flight was delayed into Houston. He arrived just moments after his flight to John Wayne International–our favored local airport–had already departed. Doug quickly made his way to United’s customer service area and asked the woman behind the counter for the next flight to any of the Southern California airports: LAX, Burbank, Ontario, or Long Beach. Anything. If he could make it to the other end of the concourse in three-and-a-half minutes, he could have the last seat on a flight to Ontario. And so it went: flight, drive, credentials, hurry-up and wait. Over the next twenty-four hours, Endeavour arrived and Endeavour departed. Here’s the video.

I Remember California: Endeavour, Departed. September 19, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

The last three days have been about logistics as much as anything to do with shuttle: delayed flights, cancelled flights, rebooking flights, new hotel reservations, and picking-up and dropping-off rental cars.

We knew that catching Endeavour in the act—watching the Florida departure and the California arrival—would require juggling our existing obligations with our desire to see this penultimate chapter of the Space Transportation System. At the moment, we are—as a colleague used to say—in the midst. Endeavour left Florida’s sky for the last time today. If everything else holds, tomorrow Endeavour will arrive in the California desert at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. If we’re really lucky, we’ll be there to greet Endeavour, two happy space nerds in a welcoming party of thousands.

Anna had to be back in California yesterday to meet this year’s inaugural poet, Victoria Chang, and to kick-off the 2012 Tabula Poetica reading series. Doug stayed behind in Florida so that one of us could witness Endeavour‘s Departure. As the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, a converted Boeing 747, whined done the runway and lifted Endeavour into the cloudy morning sky over Kennedy Space Center, Doug was reminded of the cheesy old commercial:

Two last-minute one-way tickets:      $550.00

Second rental car:     $125.00

Extra nights in hotel:     $175.00

Watching Endeavour fly over KSC for the last time:      Priceless

Here are a couple more videos from this morning. Enjoy!

I Remember California: Endeavour, Still Delayed? September 18, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Aviation, Space Exploration.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

As with any long-term project: life intervenes. Anna has to be back in California on Tuesday for class and for the opening poet of this year’s Tabula Poetica reading series, Victoria Chang. It’s a coast-to-coast day for Anna (after a five-hour, go-nowhere attempt yesterday). Her day begins with a 6:40 a.m. flight to Dallas and then onto California and home. Doug will spend most of the morning trying to decide whether or not the weather justifies sticking around Florida for another day. Right now, it looks pretty grim. NASA will meet at 11 a.m. to decide if the thunderstorm cells hovering in the Gulf of Mexico justify a further delay in Endeavour’s cross-country trek to its new home at the California Science Center.

We’ve just learned that Endeavour and the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft have been rolled back into the Mate/De-Mate Device to better weather this afternoon’s expected thunderstorms. Here’s the video that we shot of Sunday’s rollback. You can run it reverse to get a sense of today’s events. It nicely portrays how we’re feeling at the moment.

I Remember California: Endeavour Delay September 17, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Vehicle Assembly Building (Exterior)

We’ve experienced shuttle launch delays before, and we had worried that the weather couldn’t possibly be sunny the whole of Endeavour’s planned flight path today. Still, when news came that there would be a twenty-four-hour slip in the start of the impending ferry flight, we felt a little sick. We’ve come to think of Endeavour as our orbiter—the one we saw at Edwards Air Force Base in 2008 when a mission ended in California, our home of just a few months; the shuttle whose crew we twice saw on their way to the launch pad in 2011; the first orbiter we saw launch in person; the one that Stephanie Stilson gave us a personal tour of in July 2011; the one we watched back out of the Mate-Demate Device yesterday morning; the orbiter that is coming home to California, and to us, for good.

Looking up inside the VAB

We were on the “up close” bus tour of Kennedy Space Center when the tour guide announced that Endeavour’s ferry flight had been delayed a day. We’d just been inside the immense Vehicle Assembly Building (more on that in an upcoming post) when the bad news came. From the Saturn V Center, where the bus let us off for the Apollo 8 launch reenactment and to see some amazing Apollo artifacts, we called the special phone number for media updates and learned that the flight is delayed because of expected weather problems between Titusville, Florida, and Houston, Texas. A little rain, we thought, as it takes just a little rain to keep the mated orbiter on the ground or require it to fly around the precipitation. A bit queasy from the news and from our lack of sleep last night (up at 4:00a.m.), we grabbed a couple of caffeinated beverages, sat ourselves down under the looming Saturn V rocket stages, and tossed around possible ways to handle the new circumstances.

Anna & Doug in the VAB

Anna must be back in California on Tuesday for the kickoff of the Tabula Poetica Reading Series that she directs. She’s excited that poetry has burgeoned at Chapman University and that Victoria Chang will give a talk and reading on Tuesday. “I can go back with you,” Doug said. “We can see Endeavour land together at Dryden.”

“But you didn’t see Discovery from the runway last time,” Anna replied. Doug had stayed at the News Center to watch the 747 fly the orbiter over the Vehicle Assembly Building. “It’s so cool. It’s like no other takeoff,” she added, knowing that she was suggesting he stay without her. Weeks ago, we’d discussed this as a possibility, and Doug had already arranged for the time away from work. Endeavour’s ferry flight will be the last-ever for the shuttle program, and we don’t want to miss it, if we don’t absolutely have to.


The media update indicated that NASA still plans to get the orbiter to LAX on Thursday. Unless Endeavour skips Dryden Flight Research Center, scheduled as an overnight stop on Wednesday, that means we need to drive to Dryden late Tuesday night as we’d planned. No extra day built in for getting from here to there, not anymore. Could Doug really stay until Tuesday, in hopes that the delay is only twenty-four hours? How much would the switch cost? Was this the way we wanted to experience Endeavour’s move—not seamlessly together, but piecemeal?

Unexpected circumstances like these are the reason we’ve worked so hard to function as a team, to hone our style and story together, to be able to pick up where the other leaves off. We’ve done this sort of thing before, and we’ve managed various levels of separation. We’ve come to understand that the way we want to be a couple is to be more than the sum of our parts, so if Doug gets to see Endeavour take flight from the Space Coast this time and Anna doesn’t, so be it. It’s important that we experience things together, but whatever we each do counts for both of us—that’s what we’ve tried to create over the last two years. We’ll be together on the other end.

Irish Pub in Titusville

Also, it turned out that it wouldn’t be extraordinarily expensive. In fact, though the extra day does require a little more investment, it was way cheaper to change Doug’s plans than we ever could have imagined. So Doug is now all set to stay on the Space Coast until Tuesday afternoon—plans were remade even before dinner last night. Remaking our plans—remaking ourselves in small and sometimes large ways—is not always easy, but it’s exciting. We hope that these circumstances require just a twenty-four-hour remaking. If the situation requires more, NASA and Lofty Ambitions will deal with that tomorrow. For now, we’re spending a day together on the Space Coast before Doug drops Anna at the airport. We’re together now, and we’ll be together on the other coast soon.

I Remember California: Endeavour Mating September 16, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: ,
add a comment

We arrived at the Space Coast on Friday evening, checked into our meager hotel, and headed to El Leoncito for dinner, where we could see Kennedy Space Center across the water. This morning, we rose at 4:00a.m. to get our media badges and watched the space shuttle Endeavour, mated to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, back out of the mate-demate structure. Here are photos to chronicle our recent goings-on. We’ll have more tomorrow! Endeavour takes off tomorrow at dawn!

El Leoncito


Media Badges

Anna helps NASA nudge Endeavour into place.

Endeavour backs out for the last time.

I Remember California (Part 5) September 14, 2012

Posted by Lofty Ambitions in Space Exploration.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Part 1: Title for Title

Part 2: I Remember Mike Moses

Part 3: Orbiter Transfer Plans

Part 4: Preparing for Endeavour Departure

Video Interview: Jeffrey Rudolph, Head of the California Science Center

On Friday, September 14—perhaps as you read this post—we are flying from our home in Southern California to the Space Coast in Florida. We are excited to see Endeavour leave Kennedy Space Center on Monday morning at dawn. If the weather is good in Titusville, Florida. And along the westward route the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft plans to fly.

Endeavour ready for last launch

After it leaves the Space Coast, Endeavour will do flyovers along the route, stop overnight at Ellington Field in Houston (near Johnson Space Center, a home to astronauts and NASA workers), then land on Wednesday at Dryden Flight Research Center back in California, near the orbiter’s birthplace. Like the other shuttles, Endeavour was principally designed and assembled in cities in and around Los Angeles. The North American-Rockwell engineers who designed the space shuttle worked largely in nearby Downey, California. Although parts for the shuttles were sourced from thousands of contractors all over the country, final assembly of each shuttle took place in Palmdale, California.

Endeavour was not among the original shuttle fleet. After the Challenger accident in 1986, NASA ordered Endeavour to be built as a replacement for the lost orbiter. Endeavour was the last orbiter assembled. Endeavour’s first mission, STS-49, began on May 7, 1992, and it concluded nine days later on May 16th, when it landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California and came to a stop with the new drag chute designed for the shuttle. The crew of seven included Kathryn Thornton, an astronaut we interviewed HERE. Several crew members made spacewalks—including the first ever with three astronauts at once—to capture Intelsat VI, replace its motor, and send it into its proper orbit.

Endeavour in OPF

Endeavour’s last mission was STS-134, which we saw launch on May 18, 2011. You can read all about our experiences—and see lots of photos—in our series “A Launch to Remember.” The STS-134 crew of six men delivered the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and some large replacement parts to the International Space Station. On June 1, 2011, Endeavour concluded its active service, after 299 total days and more than 122 million cumulative miles in space. Since then, the shuttle program’s Transition and Retirement team has been preparing the orbiter for the ferry flight that is scheduled to begin Monday morning.

Endeavour will take the final leg of its journey to the California Science Center via streets through Inglewood and Los Angeles on October 12-13. It’ll undoubtedly be quite a party. The orbiter is so ready for its role as a museum exhibit that the initial display will officially open by the end of October, with a permanent exhibit space still in the works to display the shuttle mounted upright as if ready for launch.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers