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Here was the complete 3-part package: The Crawler, on bottom, was two stories. The Transporter was on top of the Crawler and was three more stories. On the top of the Transporter the Shuttle was attached. This photo is of the Atlantis on the Crawlerway.


NASA has two Crawlers. They are usually parked at the yard adjacent to the Orbiter Process Facilities and across the street from the VAB. Sometimes one is parked at a yard on the roadway to Pads 39-A and 39-B where those visiting the Visitor's Center can see them on their way to a viewing stand.

The Crawler/Transporter is a behemoth. This is the carrier which took the fully assembled Shuttle with its fuel tanks attached to the launch pad.

Consider these basics —

Weight: 2,721 metric tons (6 million pounds)
Length: 40 meters (131 ft) wide, 35 meters (114ft) long
Miles: 2,526 miles (1,243 miles since 1977)

The Crawler has her own special road known as the Crawlerway.

She only runs on this specially built dual highway of Mississippi rock between the VAB, her storaage yards and Pads 39-A and 39-B. Each time she heads out for a cruise on her highway, she so completely flattens the rocks on the roadbed that the rocks must be “fluffed” after each trip, and replaced, on average after she’s been over them ten times.

Each cleats on each of her eight tracks weighs one ton.

Getting a Shuttle to the Launching Pad was a two step process.

Terry Berman is manager of Crawler Operations. Previously he was in charge of Pad 39-B which has been torn down and will be re-purposed for still-to-be-determined later space missions.

First the Shuttle was towed to the Vehicle Assembly building from its hangar (known as an OFP — or Orbiting Processing Facility). In the VAB the shuttle was harnessed in the Transit Aisle and then hoisted 500 feet to the top of the VAB, and then moved laterally into one of two “High Bays”. The shuttle was then lowered and secured to the Crawler/Transporter.

The Crawler and Transporter are two separate pieces. The system, in use since the Apollo Moon program in the 1960s, will survive to serve the next generation of space vehicle. The vehicle with its tracks is the base. The Transporter is secured on top of the Crawler, and then a vehicle is secured to the Transporter.

Once a vehicle is safely secured, the Transporter sets out for the launch pad at eight-tenths of a mile per hour. Unloaded it can do about 2 mph.

The Crawler tilts.

As the Crawler climbs the final yards to the launching pad, it climbs a hill. As it climbs the Crawler has internal devices which tilt the Transporter keeping the Shuttle level (otherwise there is a risk that it would fall off). Once the Crawler has delivered the Transporter and the vehicle to the launch pad, it drives away. The vehicle is then launched a few weeks later.
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Entry to the Crawler yard is through a tightly controlled fence, inside a tightly controlled area. The last use of a Crawler was to move a launching device built for the now-cancelled Constellation program to and from Pad 39-B in November 2011. The Crawler, while they will be carefully preserved and maintained, may not be used again until 2017. NASA appears to have little, if any, support from President Obama and his administration.


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The control room. Surprisingly the Crawler has only one floor and inside it is almost all engines. It can be driven from either end in small cabs where drivers switch off every two hours. Systems are monitored here when the Crawler is moving. A team also walks with the Crawler on the ground and visually observes it when the Crawler is in motion.


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The inside of the Crawler which is accessed by climbing a rickety stairway is almost all engines except for the control room. The Shuttle is not driven from the control room, but systems are monitored there.


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A catwalk circles the entire second floor of the Crawler. There is no first floor, and the third floor is a flat surface where the Transporter is attached. This photograph is from on end of the Crawler looking back toward the other end.,


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Cockpit of the Crawler. There are two cockpits, one on opposite ends allowing the Crawling to be driven in both directions. It takes about 18 months of training to become a driver. When driving, drivers generally drive about two hours, then switch off. The drive from the VAB to the launch pads generally took 6+ hours at less than 1 mph.


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Portapottie. A temporary bathroom is discretely tucked on one end of the Crawler. This is the only restroom on the Crawler.


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The Crawler's eight tracks are massive. Each clete, specially made by only one factory, weighs 2,000 pounds and yes, they do wear out and have to be replaced.


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This is the second of the two cockpits on the opposite end of the Crawler from the cockpit picture above. The cockpits and the driving controls (just below) appear identical.


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Have a seat and let's go. There are no speed limits on the Crawlerway, but then again top speed of the Crawler is less than 2 mph. The driver has no seatbelt.


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The cockpit is small, but has room comfortably for the driver and a second person. This photograph was taken from the middle of the Crawler on the "second' floor. There is no first or third floor.


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The Crawler stands tall enough that autos and trucks can easily drive underneath. Fully loaded with a transporter, the Crawler stands five stories high. When photographing the Crawler and Transporter with a shuttle secured to it, the media was taken to the fifth floor of the VAB where they were level with the top of the Transporter and where their photographs appears to be at ground level, but were actually more than 50' or five stories above the ground..


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Pete Crow, who is 6'0", stands under exactly in the center underneath the Crawler to get perspective to the Crawler's massive size.


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This photograph is taken standing on the ground and looking up at the Crawler.


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This is the exact 180-degree view from the photograph just above.


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Carol Anne Swagler stands on one of the two pebble covered tracks which serve as the Crawler's highway to the two launch pads. Ms. Swagler, a veteran newspaper woman, was working as a photographer for an Oklahoma newsapaper, The Grove Sun Daily. In the waning days of the shuttle program, Ms. Swagler was frequently accredited to photograph the shuttle and other NASA launches at the Cape. The Grove Sun Daily, unusual for a small daily, sent reporters and photographers to cover the space program frequently, all the way back to the Apollo 17 moon launch in 1972; its community had a NASA sub-contractor. In the background over Ms. Swagler's shoulder is the Vehicle Assembly Building. The Crawler and shuttle are heading toward Ms. Swagler -- she had walked on ahead. If she had not moved -- which she did -- the Crawler would have flattened her and there would have been no more trips to the Cape for Ms. Swagler.

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tell me MORE — read more about the Crawler/Transporter on the NASA site HERE

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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The Space Shuttle Atlantis will land during one of the times below, and in one of the listed locations, between Thursday July 21 and Saturday July 23, 2011. The shuttles energy reserves will be 14 hours (it’s ability to keep flying) after these landing times.

STS-135 Mission crest. The final shuttle mission will end between Thursday morning, July 21, and Saturday afternoon, July 23, 2011.

Overnight, July 20-21, the shuttle undocked from the International Space Station (ISS), did a fly around the station before easing into an orbit that gradually, orbit by orbit, increased the distance between itself and the ISS. Atlantis is moving into a landing trajectory and then, about an hour before landing, will do a de-orbit burn to land at one of its three listed landing areas.

It is expected to land at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, the most preferred location of the three locations.

Tuesday afternoon, July 20, 2011, the weather looked favorable for the shuttle to successfully land in Florida on its first of two Florida opportunities. The shuttle would be landing at dawn on Thursday morning, July 22, 2011

The landing opportunites and locations are as follows:

THURSDAY
KSC orbit 200 – 5:56 am EDT
KSC orbit 201 – 7:32 am EDT

FRIDAY
KSC orbit 215 – 4:56 am EDT
KSC orbit 216 – 6:31 am EDT
EDW orbit 217 – 8:02 am EDT
NOR orbit 217 – 8:04 am EDT
EDW orbit 218 – 9:38 am EDT
NOR orbit 218 – 9:40 am EDT
EDW orbit 219 – 11:15 am EDT

SATURDAY
KSC orbit 231 – 5:30 am EDT
KSC orbit 232 – 7:06 am EDT
NOR orbit 232 – 7:03 am EDT
EDW orbit 233 – 8:37 am EDT
NOR orbit 233 – 8:39 am EDT
EDW orbit 234 – 10:13 am EDT
KSC orbit 236 (descending) – 1:36 pm EDT

source:
NASA / Johnson Space Center / July 19, 2011
NASA / KSC confirms times; NOR not listed as alternative / July 20, 2011

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Shuttle Landing Field Tower at Kennedy Space Center. Grandstands for the media and VIPs are just below the tower. The tower is halfway down the runway known as the SLF, shuttle landing facility. The shuttle takes about 2/3s of the runway to land.

The Control Tower at the Shuttle Landing Facility (runway) at Kennedy Space Center. It is here that the Shuttle Atlantis is expected to land before dawn on Thursday, July 21, 2011, ending thirty years of the shuttle program.

The Control Tower is part of a complex halfway down the SLF.

Other facilities adjoining the Tower include media work space and a VIP viewing area. This photograph was taken on May 31, 2011, when the Shuttle Endeavour landed in the evening on the second to last shuttle mission, STS-134.

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Best VIEWING Places
NASA’s best viewing places
, HERE

Mission Summary
NASA online STS-135 Mission Summary HERE

Other Mission Vitae

STS-135 scheduled to Launch Shuttle Atlantis 11:26 am (preferred launch time) on July 8, 2011 — final launch in the shuttle program.

STS-135 scheduled for 12 day mission ending at 7:06 am, July 20, 2011.

This shuttle may be launched later, but will not be launched earlier than this date. The shuttle will not land earlier than the landing time, and may, even if launched on time, be unable to land until later orbits, and even may be unable to land in Florida.

Additionally, NASA wants to add an entire day to the mission which may be possible if the Atlantis is launched on time. If the launch is delayed the consumables on board likely will make the one-day extension impossible.

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Best VIEWING Places
NASA’s best viewing places
, HERE

Mission Summary
NASA online STS-135 Mission Summary HERE

Other Mission Vitae

STS-135 scheduled to Launch Shuttle Atlantis on July 8, 2011 — final launch in the shuttle program.

STS-135 scheduled for 12 day mission ending at 7:06 am, July 20, 2011.

This shuttle may be launched later, but will not be launched earlier than this date. The shuttle will not land earlier than the landing time, and may, even if launched on time, be unable to land until later orbits, and even may be unable to land in Florida.

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The Control Tower at the shuttle landing facility sits midway down the runway where the shuttles landed. Only one more shuttle will land here — the Atlantis when she returns from the final mission now scheduled for July. The shuttles always land here — even when they first return from space and land somewhere else — because even if they do not themselves land here, they are returned to Florida on top of a specially rigged 747.

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Looking at ceiling, up Tower A of the VAB. Note that the tower goes all the way up, but that an area is open between Tower A (left) and Tower B (lower portion of photograph). This is obviously not a great picture.

How the VAB is constructed. The Vehicle Assembly Buiding at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, is the largest building, in terms of volume, in the world.

The VAB was constructed in the mid-1960s to assemble the rockets and capsule in the Apollo program. The Apollo program landed men on the Moon six times between 1969 and 1972. It also served in the Skylab program and for the past 30 years has been the place where the shuttles have been mated with their rockets prior to being taken, as a single unit, to the launching pads.

The VAB, at 500 feet, is an iconic building of the American space program and is visible for miles. It is adjacent and mere steps from the Launch Control Center and its four firing rooms where the Apollo, Skylab and Shuttles have been launched. The VAB is also directly across the street from the Complex 39 Media Site where all media coverage of the launches of the shuttle originates. The VAB is adjacent to the three Orbiter Processing Facilities (OPF), the shuttle hangars. To the northwest of the VAB, several miles away, is the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), the runway where shuttles land in Florida. Shuttles also land in California and New Mexico when weather conditions do not permit a Florida landing.

The VAB is constructed of six supporting towers designated A, B, C, D, E and F. Three of these towers each inter-connect up to the 16th floor on opposite sides of the main open bay. The bays between the towers are open above the 16th floor.

The shuttle bays themselves are in between the D and E, and the E and F towers. Therefore, to place a shuttle in one of the shuttle bays, a shuttle must first be lifted from the main central bay, above the 16th floor, and then moved laterally into the shuttle bay, before being lowered and secured to the five-story high Crawler which will carry the shuttle to the launching pad.

Floor plan of the Vehicle Assembly Building. On May 18, 2011, the shuttle Atlantis was moved from the Transfer Aisle into High Bay 1 between Towers D and E.

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.”petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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As soon as we pulled off for the obligatory morning picture of the Days-to-Launch sign, cars pulled off and piled up around us. Happy surprise -- we've been hanging and talking with these guys. This is a busy picture. I'm taking a picture of them, including Carol Anne who is taking a picture of them, and the guy on the far right is taking a picture of me. Covering stories like shuttle launches, reporters are easily amused and often have too much time on their hands for stuff like this.

This morning we will move to the Cape and remain at the Pad 39 Media Site at Kennedy Space Center until either STS-134 is launched, or until the mission is scrubbed.

8:30 am, Celebration, FL. With Carol Anne in tow, we make the morning provisioning stop at a donut shop across on Highway 192, then head onto the 417 for the Beachline (State 528) and the coast. As expected traffic at this hour on a Sunday morning is nill.

We are on our way to watch the rotating service structure (RSS) be retracted from the shuttle at Pad 39-A. It is scheduled for Noon, and we have to be on the bus and clear of security by 10:30 am. No problem. We breeze over to the coast and through the gates onto Kennedy Space Center and arrive early. The day is surprisingly comfortable with a breeze and although the sun is out, humidity is low.

I’ve covered this event before, but Carol Anne has not. I notice that the media has been moved back from the gate leading up to the launch pad another few yards. It doesn’t matter. If someone is in front of you, as the tripod guys always are, just step back a few feet and you can see the entire pad. It’s not hard to miss.

Roughly a quarter to a third of the 1,500 accredited reporters showed up for the trip out to Pad 39-A Sunday morning, May 15, 2011, to watch the rotating service structure (RSS) be retracted from the shuttle. As a result, NASA needed a tons of buses. The rotating service structure (RSS) retraction is shown in a sequence of five pictures -- scroll down. It's the next post following this.

11:50 am, Pad 39-A. Happily, and surprisingly, the rotating service structure (RSS) begins about 10-minutes ahead of schedule and well before 1 pm we are back at the Media Center.

To see the Retraction of the rotating service structure (RSS) : scroll down — the retraction is shown in a series of five pictures in the post directly following this post.

1 pm, media center. This place is still empty, and as we left the bus we noticed the parking lot was emptying out. We have a short debate as to whether we should leave KSC and find lunch. It is a short debate. We have so much time that it cannot matter even if we begin to get caught in the growing crowds that will likely be flocking to the Cape later this afternoon and evening.

I field a phone call from my cousin. A friend of his, a motion picture director, wants my advice as to where he (the director and his family) should view the launch.

The shuttles are brought to the launch pads on Crawlers. The roadbed of the Crawlway is river rock from Alabama and Tennessee. Pete Crow is among the reporters and photographers lying on the Shuttle Crawler near Pad 39 A on Sunday, May 15, 2011, waiting for the RSS to be retracted from Shuttle Eneavour. This is the second to last shuttle mission, STS-134.

Well, ahem, he probably should have bluffed his way into the VIP section starting weeks ago, but it’s too late now. I am running a link to the public viewing areas that NASA recommends on each of these blog posts because it is often difficult to find the link on the NASA site. I refer them to NASA and that link and am hoping for the best for them. Fact is, in all the launches I’ve seen, I’ve only watched one outside of the press site so I’m a complete pilgrim on where to watch launches around here.

1:30 pm Shuttles Restaurant. Shuttles is an amiable sports bar south of Kennedy Space Center Gate 2 on State Highway 3. We first found it a few launches ago. It is much closer than retreating all the way to Titusville to the west or going all the way south to Cocoa Beach. The real draw of this place, however, is the great food.

Shuttles, a sports bar, on State Road 3 south of the entrance to KSC. Good food, but could it be an endangered species? -- with the shuttle program ending, this could put a great restaurant/sports bar under duress unless you drive over and have a bite and a beer every so often. And no, my brother-in-law doesn't own the place.

Shuttles, winkwink, is obviously named for the Space Shuttles, but someone around there also seems to be a Boston Red Sox fan.

The place is empty. Good for us, but not so good for Shuttles. We are completely mis-gauging the size of the crowds. So far the roads are completely empty. In the end we zip over to Shuttles and back seeing virtually no cars.

3:00 pm Media Center. We ease into the empty media parking lot. We now suspect that the media will filter in beginning early evening. If we’re right, and if the media is coming at all, this is a new age. It used to be that the media would be here .

4:00 pm. Carol Anne is out sleeping in the car and I’m in the completely empty media annex where my work space is. I have checked the adjoining workspaces and now find most are unassigned. On April 29, they were all assigned. Apparently lots of media organizations are not returning.

Astronaut Michael Good being interviewed. There's plenty to hate about Astronauts -- they're good-looking, articulate, intelligent and they're the kind of guys who always get the girl. The problem is, however, they're also likable, intelligent and engaging to be around. I encountered Mr. Good briefly as he passed through the annex on his way to interviews on Sunday, May 15, 2011.

The lost Astronaut. A guy in a blue jump suit has wandered into the annex and is drfiting around looking lost. He hwinds up at the back tables behind me reading names of organizations taped to the tables.

He is astronaut Michael T. Good who he flew on two shuttle missions and now lives in Colorado. Check his entire NASA bio out HERE .It’s worth reading. I’ve interviewed Astronauts over the years. It is hard not to be holy-freaking-cow about Astronauts — about where they have been, about how superbly trained they are, about how just plain gutsy it is to climb the shuttle and be launched at many times the force of gravity into space, and lots more.

I’m standing here face-to-face with a guy who has logged seven minutes shy of 30 hours of walking in space, and flown two shuttle missions (May 2009, STS-125, and May 2010, STS-132).

With Astronauts, and with anyone you’re interviewing, the thrust of any story is always “tell me about it”. But with Astronauts? — how can they ever really tell you about it?

I go back and introduce myself to Astronaut Good. I ask him if interviews with Astronauts that NASA is offering are one-on-one or in crowds. He says he has no idea, and in fact says he is lost, adding he is rarely if ever has been to the media site. We walk over to the main media site and we chat along the way. In the main media center he is quickly oriented, finds his NASA handler and heads for his scheduled interviews.

10 pm, media site. Gorgeous night at the Cape. Gentle wind, nearly full moon, humidity is low. Carol Anne and I walk the site, still looking for the Tweeters. Of the 150, only 80 will return. NASA polled them to see who wanted to come back a second time. Only half were able to do so. Tweeters pay their own way; last time the April 29 launch was on a Friday.

Back at the media center, I move my stuff from the annex to an open table in the back of the main media center. Only three NASA personnel are working the site, including an affable PR woman from Marshall Space Flight in Huntsville, AL. We chat. It has been years since I have been in Huntsville, but in the 1950s my brother-in-law worked as a very junior memberon Wernher von Braun‘s engineering team there at Redstone Arsenal, and another brother-in-law’s family owned the Coca-Cola bottling company there and a lot of the downtown. My eldest niece was even born there.

A long time ago. The town has grown.

Media too seem to be missing in action. From my past experiences of being buried in traffic, I may have over-reacted to the number of people who would be flowing out to the Cape to watch the launch.

I’m weary and head for the car to sleep. Before I go I see that the media is being invited to watch the launch from Banana Creek, the VIP site. I sign up, but before I go I’ll check and try to learn more about it.

A decision on whether to fuel will be made at 11 pm. and if the go is given, the tanks will be filled shortly before 3 am. I’ll be asleep long before either event. … and to to bed.

“petecrow/NASA” © 2011 by / Peter M. Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust and by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California.

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NASA list of best viewing sites to watch shuttle launches HERE
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8:45am, Orlando. I am on my way back to the coast and the Cape with plenty of time to make the 10 am briefing. And I would have had I not stopped to grab a fast food breakfast and to snap the picture at the left. What I didn’t figure were cars running as fast as possible up to the guard gate and cutting into line. Or the drawbridge being up for the second straight day on the Causeway — what are the chances of that?

10 am, media site. Preparations are underway in the parking lot for the influx of TV vans. Crews are laying yellow protectors for car to drive over, and cables to be tucked under. Today it is no kidding — there’s no close in parking and the lot for the TV vans is clear. I burro all my stuff into the media site.

10:05 am, press conference. Okay I’m late, but not serially late. Lots of re-visiting about the mechanicals that scrubbed the April 29 launch and whether the real cause has been found, or ever will be. Sounds to me like the answer is “never will be” but maybe is more “who cares” since everything seems to be working fine now.

Weather is 70-percent go on Monday morning’s launch, but there’s weather to be eyed on Sunday. If it doesn’t do what NASA thinks it will do, maybe the launch will be scrubbed again. The weather on Tuesday in only 60-percent chance, but Wednesday, if the launch is delayed that long, is a rosy 80-percent. On the other hand that is five days away. Still — these guys are awfully good at predicting weather.

Next press conference? Saturday, 4 pm.

Crowds. Will there be an estimated 700,000 people back on Monday for the launch? Probably not — probably coser to 500,000 since it is a weekday and a mid-morning launch (roughly 9 am).

The 10 am briefing was lightly attended with some, but not a lot of questions asked. Perhaps the biggest issue was answered in the briefing before the questions: Will the weather be okay for Monday's launch? So far, so good..

Tweeters. The Tweeter mystery has been solved. They will be back, albeit with truncated hours. They get to come back Sunday afternoon, and they have to leave after the Monday morning launch.

If the launch is delayed a second time, that’s it. Tweeters only get two bites of the apple — there’s no third-launch-opportunity for these 150 guys.

But where’s their tent? And their tables? And … Gone. All gone.

This time the Tweeters get to sit in bleachers. “That’s where most of them sat last time anyway.” — Hmmm.

“And, anyway! — last time they showed up with all kinds of stuff, including their own umbrellas.” Sort of like high tech beduoins? “Yes.” And the sun won’t get them? “No.” — Hmmm.

Will Tweeters be invited for STS-135, the final launch now scheduled for no earlier than June 28, 2011? “We’ll see.” The Tweeters bring along 150 additional cars for the parking lot, and if you think STS-134 is crowded (1,500 media), you ain’t seen nothing yet in terms of the media likely to show up for STS-135 and the shuttle’s swan song.

Still, it sort of sounded like Tweeters will be tweeting here come the STS-135 launch.
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“petecrow / NASA” is copyright © by Seine/Harbour® Productions, Studio City, California, and by Peter M Crow and the Peter Michael Crow Trust

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NASA list of best viewing sites to watch the upcoming shuttle launch is HERE

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Dawn. Four days to launch of the second to last shuttle mission, STS-134 using the Endeavour orbiter, officially known as OV-105.

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.

I decided to ignore the signs saying to park in the over-flow lot, and then decided to just park in the front row right by the steps up to the media center. Very convenient. So, unnn, where is my car? (... actually it is in the second row)

8:05 am, Not surprisingly, the 417 and then the Beachline highway 528, are mostly empty.

How 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.

I’m tempted.

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.

The first time I covered a launch at the Cape a guy sat out in the weeds on top of a coaxial cable junction box hoping nobody would kick it and thereby kick all communications of the launch to the outside world off line. Times have changed.

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.

NASA Public Affairs officer directing the media toward the front of the Space Shuttle Discovery on April 27, 2011. As the shuttle program ends NASA is making all sort of sites available to the media including the shuttle hangars (known as the Oribter Processing Facilities or OPFs) and closer up looks at the landing field, a launch pad, and other places.

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.

Tweeter bleachers, but no Tweet tent and no Tweeters. Will they be back or are they gone forever? Tune in tomorrow.

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.

The Boeing Water Cooler from which one of NASA's prime contractors plies the press with chilled free water. But today the well is dry. Maybe tomorrow? A not-so-secret thing about the media is that they are chronic moochers.

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?”

No.

“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.

. . . . . . . . . .

UPDATES directly from NASA
use these links:


STS-134 OFFICIAL NASA UPDATES
news on STS-134 from NASA web site is HERE
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STS-135 OFFICIAL NASA UPDATES

news on STS-135 from NASA web site is HERE
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“petecrow / NASA” is copyright © 2011 by Seine/Harbour® Productions, LLC, Studio City, California, and by Peter Michael Crow and The Peter Michael Crow Trust.

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