NASA list of best viewing sites to watch the upcoming shuttle launch is HERE
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Endeavour is the newest and last member of the five shuttle fleet rolling out of the factory in Palmdale, CA in April 1991. Three shuttles survive. Endeavour was built to replace Challenger, the workhorse of the shuttle fleet, that was lost shortly after liftoff in 1986.
Weather looks surprisingly good, but that should be taken with a grain of salt. The launch is 96 hours away. That “70-percent chance” of launchable weather is an educated guess, but a guess. Moreover, it is May in Florida now — and May precedes the start of the hurricane season in June.
7:25 am, Celebration (Orlando/Kissimmee), Florida. I have decided to come to the Cape this morning to look around and see what’s up. The press media site opened again at 7 am this morning for the first time since the launch was scratched on Aril 29. The site will remain open from now through the landing — assuming Endeavour is launched without another prolonged delay.8:05 am, Not surprisingly, the 417 and then the Beachline highway 528, are mostly empty.
Only two tailgaters the entire way over to the Cape and only one guy who roars past me doing 100 mph on his way to his afterlife.
The Beachline is a chute — for thirty or so miles there are almost no exits. It is the most efficient road in central Florida so it is no surprise that the highway department is busy putting in more exits on the Beachline. Soon it will be a parking lot like everything else around here — and the tolls will go up.
As I drive along I think, I sure wish I owned a toll road.
8:10 am, I detour onto the I-95 and go to Titusville to have breakfast. OMG, a bus is in the parking lot of McDonald’s. Jeech! Every table except one is teeming with children. But wait — I order and am handed my breakfast and, moments later, everybody except me heads for the bus.
They sure look like a nice group and I’m figuring they are heading over to the space museum. Problem is if I climb on the bus with them, I’ll probably be noticed since I’m not black.8:50 am, I coast to a stop as the drawbridge stop light turns red and the gate starts down. I turn the car off and climb out.
A guy and his wife from South Africa are in the next car and he climbs out as soon as I do. “Is it legal for us to get out of our cars?” he asks. I tell him the police will be waiting for him on the other side of the drawbridge. He and his wife exchange glances, then realize I’m a crackpot.
We become instant, 10-minute friends.
9:15 am, I park in the media center parking lot following arrows and abiding by the rules, but then decide — screw this — and move my car into one of the best places on the lot.
As I head for the media center, now mere steps away, I look around trying to remember what this place was like when I first came here in December 1972 for the last Moon mission (Apollo 17). They’ve built a lot and that grandstand I reported from is long gone. Mostly I can figure out what was where, but I finally decide to dig out my 1972 pictures and shoot new pictures from the same angles.
Yeah. That ought to do it.
Then I really look around.
The Tweeters. Uh-oh. The Tweeter tent is gone. The whole thing and everything in it — the chairs and the tables and that astronaut suit you could climb up into and have you picture taken as if you, too, were an astronaut. It is now just an open stretch of bad sandy no grass land as if those 150 tweeters never ever existed.
Okay. Well, maybe they’re going to put the tent up for them again later today.
Get a grip.
The tweeters are toast.
9:20 am, media center. Most of the other reporters and photographers are out at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF = the runway) where the astronauts and their families are returning again from Houston. I have purposely arrived late and am missing it.This is not a problem — I have photographed astronauts arriving several times before, and Carol Anne got the current crew’s first arrival on April 27.
She also got a pretty good case of sunburn and a case of dustmite from ingesting too much blowing crud out there. “It was hot out,” she grumbled upon returning. It was her first time photographing a crew arrival.
Well, of course, I tried to look sad and compassionate about it all, but fact is, I watched the crew arrival from the air conditioned media center and, if anything, had my own problems: it was a tad chilly in the media center that morning, although with a long sleeve shirt on, I was okay, thank you. But I kept most of that to myself.
9:30 am, Media Center. I ask about the weather and a woman says “I’m printing it now.” Can she give me a preview? “I haven’t read it myself,” she says, handing me a copy hot off the copier. “Don’t burn your fingers,” she says.
10:30 am, Media Center. The real reason I’m here today is to find out what’s coming, and to do that you sometimes have to hang around, watch and listen. Eventually I track down a woman I had visited with over in the OPF (shuttle hangar) last month and I confirm a few upcoming events I am interested in and she explains how they’re going to be handled.11:00 am, I go over to what is left of the Tweeter site and look around. All that is left, for now at least, is a red parking cone and a few empty trash cans with fresh liners. I consider empty trash cans with fresh liners a good sign. I return to the media center, parched and head for the free Boeing water cooler. Empty. Soon Boeing will be handing out free water, but not yet. I fill up my empty McDonald’s coffee cup at the water cooler and drain it. Then I fill it again.
Noon, the guys who covered the astronaut’s arrival are back. One guy more or less staggers by me and says to someone else “I’m drained.” She says, “it’s pretty early in the day to be drained,” and I start thinking about how Carol Anne looked when she got back from the SLF a couple of weeks ago after photographing the arrival of the astronauts.12:30 pm, finishing up various projects and ready to wrap it up here for the day. Place is quiet. I have moved from my work space in the annex over and moved into a space assigned to Airplanista Magazine. Soon enough one of the NASA staff comes by putting down fresh sheets designated who gets what space. “Can I come home from the annex?” I ask. “Are you re-assigning?”
“Everybody is staying put, and that means you-in-the-annex.”
Okay. Got it.
And with that, it is time to find some food and clear out until tomorrow.
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UPDATES directly from NASA
use these links:
STS-134 OFFICIAL NASA UPDATES
news on STS-134 from NASA web site is HERE
STS-135 OFFICIAL NASA UPDATES
news on STS-135 from NASA web site is HERE