Posts Tagged ‘ksc’

Endeavour took off from Kennedy Space Center about 7:18am and after flying the Visitors Center, the VAB and a part of the coast, circled back and came back low over the SLF in a final salute. She then turned west toward Houston/Ellington.


Before taking off from the north to the south, Endeavour/747 taxied the entire length of the SLF, stopping midway down the runway for media and guests.


Rain threatened and KSC officials debated holding the Endeavour’s departure for a third day, but in the end gave her the greenlight to go.


Far in the distance, Endeavour banks past the Vehicle Assembly Building where for 20 years her journeys back to space began.

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On Sunday, December 11, 2011, the high fidelity Space Shuttle mockup that has been at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center was moved 5.6 miles from the Visitor’s Center to the Media Press Site 39 parking lot adjacent to the turning basin. In March this shuttle, known as “Explorer” while at the Kennedy Space Center, will be placed on a barge and sent to Galveston, Texas, and then on to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for permanent display.

The move took about three hours, starting about 7:30 am and ending about 11 am.

The Shuttle mockup leaving the Visitor Center. This mockup never flew in space. With it gone, the Visitor Center will build a special building to house a real Shuttle which is expected to be on display in late 2012 or early 2013.


This photograph was taken at Location 4. This is the intersection of Schwartz Road and Contractor Road. The Shuttle has turned north and is headed up Contractor Road past the Railroad Engines. Movement of the Explorer, as it was known while at the Visitor's Center, went much quicker than expected. Originally the media was told movement would begin at 7:30 am and taken until 3 pm. In actuality movement began at 8:30am and ended at 11 am.


This photograph was taken at Location 7 (see map of route below). Nearing the end of its 5.6 mile journey to the Pad 39 Media site parking lot, adjacent to the turning basin, the movers stopped the shuttle move for awhile to allow photographs in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Then they gathered and photographed themselves in a group shot.


(Location 7) A few hundred yards from the Pad 39 Media site parking lot, and the Turning Basin, the mover-guys pulled over, piled out and allowed the media to takes pictures of the shuttle, and of themselves, in front of the VAB. Then, with the media done, they piled in front of the shuttle and their truck, for pictures of their own. These guys finished what was expected to be a 7.5 hour journey of 5.6 miles in a tidy 2.5 hours. They were so good that everybody was home in time for Sunday lunch and the afternoon football games.


Carol Anne Swagler, self portrait. Ms. Swagler is accredited as a photographer and, you will note, she got herself entirely in the photograph but only half of the Shuttle. She would argue, and we would agree, she got most of what she was going for in this picture. Ms. Swagler took 267 photographs of the move on Sunday, December 11, 2011. Patricia Christian (in red behind Ms. Swagler), NASA public relations, was one of several escorts on Sunday. (Location 7).


(CLICK to ENLARGE) This is the route from Visitor's Center to the parking lot at the press site. The media photographed the movement from 8 sites marked on this map.

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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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Firing Room #1. Kennedy Space Center has 4 firing rooms.

Kennedy Space Center has 4 firing rooms, all beside one another on the third floor of the Launch Control Center.

At lift off, control of a Shuttle mission immediately transferred to Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, and Mission Control.

Firing Room #1, #3 and #4 were all used for Apollo moon missions. Firing Room #2 was used for training.

All four firing rooms appear to the same size, although plans are underway to divide Firing #4 into four separate firing rooms which would be much smaller.

During the later Shuttle missions only Firing Room #3 and Firing Room #4 were used. And for the last 20 or so Shuttle missions, following the modernization of Firing Room #4, only Firing Room #4 was used for launches.

The Mars Science Laboratory was not launched from any of these firings rooms. Launch control for MSL was adjacent to Pad 41, and after launch control of the mission passed to a NASA contractor located in the Denver, Colorado, suburbs.

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On Monday the media center was empty and the KSC media staff said they were glad to see the media back. It has been so lonely without us. Maybe, maybe not. With only an exception or two the NASA KSC pr staff is terrific to deal with.

Launch-minus-Four-Days L-4, Monday November 21, 2011


Safety procedures for the Mars Science Laboratory’s (MSL) Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG)


Michael Meyer, lead scientist Mars Exploration Program
John Grotzinger, project scientist, MSL, California Institute of Technology
Bethany Ehlmann, scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), assistant professor, California Institute of Technology

Example of a wheel from the MSL (MSL has six) in the Media Center at KSC. The rover was designed in Pasadena, CA, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL was so proud they put their name on the tire (like Firestone) and were told by a peevish NASA to take their name off. They did, but take a look at those odd holes in the tire. Those holes are Morse Code letters J, P and L.


visit: Launch Equipment Test Facility
visit: Operations and Checkout Building for Orion Manned Space Capsule
visit: Multi-Payload Processing Facility
visit: Canister Rotation Facility

Five Days to Go: The Countdown begins
The launch of the Mars Science Laboratory, a two-ton rover packed with the ability to conduct scientific experiments is five days away. Thanksgiving is Thursday, so the launch clock will go from L-2 on Wednesday, skip Thursday, and L-1 will be on Friday.

NASA has packed the week with briefings for the media and, when the Tweeters are allowed in on Friday, there will be a bunch more briefings for them.

Sunday night, November 20, 2011
Months ago I requested credentials for the launch, uncertain that I would be in Florida. Most of the fall I have been in Los Angeles or Austin at Red Studios, at the American Film Market and at the Austin Film Festival.

I remembered that the launch was going to be about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is next Thursday. I log on to the NASA Media site and download the schedule.

Uh-oh, Briefings begin in the morning.

I ponder this. Carol Anne, who photographs for me, is in Virginia. She will not return until Monday night and I will need to pick her up at the airport in Orlando. I’ve lost her arrival time, but can figure it out. The NASA briefings begin at 11 Monday morning and go most of the day. I need to build in an extra hour to pick up my credentials, a task complicated by NASA sometimes credentialing at the badging office on State Highway 405, and at other times on State Road 3.

Normally a quick call to the NASA Press office tells me where to go. But during the summer my iPhone brunched down my telephone book.

I take a deep breath and bet on the State Road 405 badging office and, bet correctly. But then the badging officer demands that I show her my “Credential Letter” in addition to my passport and my driver’s license. No one has ever asked me to print out the email confirming my accreditation before.

We stare. Isn’t name in the computer? Yes. So am I not accredited? Silent staring. I have not budgeted what will not cost at least another hour, still I have to give up …

“I will go find somewhere and print it out,” I finally say giving up, smiling my aging choir boy smile.

With that she hands me my badge. “Next time,” she says, “have that letter.”

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On Monday morning the Tweet tent was ready for the Tweeters, loaded with high tech equipment. But wait -- the Tweeters don't come until Friday because the launch has been pushed back a day. So will all of this expensive stuff sit out here under the sun for most of the week? Apparently so -- a dour guard tells me he has settled in to babysit everything 24/7 until the Tweeters show up.

The Media Center, 10:30 am

I sign up for all of the tours for the day and am almost the only one on the list. I banter with Jennifer and Laurel and re-punch the media numbers into my iPhone. The media center is empty.

Will I need to request work space? No. Only 178 media are accredited and half or more will not show up. This means that this time Tweeters, at 150, will almost match the number of media.

I have a list of access requests and discuss them. I am told with a single exception fulfilling them should be no problem. I’m given the contacts and the email addresses. Will it really be this easy now that 90-percent of the media is gone and we’re back to un-manned missions where human life is no longer at stake?

It sure looks like it.

11 am The KSC Radiological Control Center (RADCC)
The Mars Science Laboratory carries is powered by uranium. If that canister of uranium is ruptured on launch, it could contaminate a wide area around the launch site.

NASA this morning wants the media to see the precautions they are taking, and to see an example of the canister itself. First we visit the Radiological Control Center which monitors more than one hundred radiation devices in a huge swatch of central Florida. Then we are tasken into a separate control room which, in the event of an accident, will be responsible for informing the media.

It’s very convincing. These guys cannot afford an accident, especially one that radiates central Florida. It ain’t gonna happen (and on Saturday, it doesn’t).

Lots of stuff is in the same building as the Radiological Control Center, including a dorm of the third floor for the astronauts.


The media was welcomed and greeted in the foyer before going upstairs to the control rooms. NASA is very sensitive that any danger issues be addressed and answered.


Example of one of several different radiological monitoring devices NASA placed in large numbers over a huge swatch of central Florida. These devices are sending data constantly and are being monitored in the Radiological Control Center constantly during and following launch.


Many of the facilities at Kennedy Space Center are now being re-purposed with the end of the Space Shuttle program. Feeling tension and need a massage? The massage therapist has moved. This sign is prominent in the foyer of the building where the Radiological Control Center is located.


If something bad happens during launch (and it never has) these guys would know first. The remote monitoring devices are reporting constantly to these monitors.


The Cowbell. This is a busy and not always quiet room. If something bad happens or if the attention of everyone in the room is required, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG the cowbell is used. The bell was demonstrated for the unruly media and is quite convincing. My ears are still ringing. Moo.


Department of Energy official explains how the MSL is powered, and why the uranium in the MSL can be launched safely. Later in the week he told me that the MSL will have power to operate as long as 14 years, long after the MSL is expected to be operations on the surface of Mars.


MSL's power source. Small but powerful and so completely sealed that all efforts to smash the capsule and expose the uranium failed. They figured out how to seal it up; they never managed to bust it open. Nonetheless, a large operation stands by in the Radiological Control Center should the capsule rupture and scatter uranium.


This is the press room where, should there be a radiological danger after launch of the MSL, the press and public will be informed. Big operation. Never been needed.


Pride in NASA, and pride in the accomplishments of the American space program are everywhere, even as these offices empty out and people lose their jobs. The shuttle is gone and the future of the United States in space, while not tenuous, is not as robust as it once was when we were launching humans into space.


Michael Meyer (second from left), Bethany Ehlmann (second from right) and John Grotzinger (far right) spent an hour in early afternoon discussing "What do we know about Mars?" The answer is, a lot, including that water appears to be trapped there and while it is not conclusive that life ever existed on Mars, there's growing suspicion that it may have, and may still. Meyer is the lead scientist on the Mars Exploration Program. Ehlmann is a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an assistant professor at California Institute of Technology. Grotzinger is project scientist, Mars Science Laboratory and California Institue of Technology. NASA has moderators (far left) for all conferences, usually drawn from their public relations staffs.


KSC Launch Equipment Test Facility is a rarely seen place because testing is often going on here, and testing can be hazardous. These days the facility has many fewer people, including only one remaining government NASA employee.


Tests are carefully studied and controlled from this room. This is the Control Room in the Launch Equipment Test Facility.


Orion, which looks like an Apollo capsule on sterioids, is supposed to be the next generation NASA space vehicle. As with Apollo, this vehicle is meant to travel deeper into space than low earth orbit where the shuttle and the International Space Station traveled. It is hoped that Orion can land on an asteroid, the Moon or even Mars. Until late 2012 it was, however, a capsule without a rocket or a mission. This building is known officially as "The Checkout Building for Orion" and has been extensively repurposed for its earlier uses.


The shuttle;s Canister Rotation Facility now houses the Orion escape mechanism. After the deaths of the Columbia astronauts on STS-107 great re-design effort was put into affording future astronauts more opportunities to survive. How to escape and survive an accident involving Orion is being studied in this building.


The escape mechanism would pull the Orion capsule away from the rocket and allow it to land by parachute on water or land. Escaping quickly enough is no simple matter either technologically, or for the astronauts themselves. The G-force required to escape is 15 Gs, a gravity force that the human body can only endure about three seconds. By contrast Apollo subjected Astronauts to 6-Gs and the Shuttle to 3-Gs.

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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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MSL mission LOGO

We spent the week at Kennedy Space Center in briefings on the Mars Science Laboratory which is scheduled to launch at 10:02 am EST, November 26, 2012, Saturday morning. Carol Anne will shoot it from the roof of the Launch Control Center. I’ll be on the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. The Lab is scheduled to land on Mars on August 6, 2012.

See animation of how MSL’s Curiosity rover will land on Mars HERE

Read more about this mission and other NASA stuff HERE.

Carol Anne on the roadway that carried the Atlas rocket and the Mars Science Laboratory to Launch Pad 41 at Kennedy Space Center a few minutes earlier. It is Friday morning, November 25, 2011. With MSL on the pad, all that is left that is needed is favorable weather. Behind Carol Anne is the Pad 41 hangar belonging to the publicly owned United Launch Alliance (ULA) where the Atlas rocket and the MSL were mated.


Pete at KSC Launch Pad 41. The Atlas rocket with the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) on top is in the background. The MSL weighs as astounding 2,000 pounds and is expected to determine once and for all whether there is or was life on Mars (hint: there was, and probably still is). It will also continue paving the way for a manned landing on Mars planned for about 2030. Before MSL lands the landing area at Gale Crater will be overflown by the two satellites the United States currently has on station orbiting Mars.


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Until May, NASA thought they were tearing down Pad 39-B to re-purpose her for the Constellation program. Then, for a second time, just as the new spaceship was about to be manufactured, Obama canceled it. Millions were wasted.

In preparation for Constellation, three lightning towers were arrayed around the launch pad at 39-B. Why? Who knows — lightning never struck a shuttle on the pad or even came close. Until these lightning rods were erected, that is. Now huge strikes are hitting the pad, although not striking any vehicles (since there are no vehicles on the pad to strike).

Launch Pad 39-B on November 23, 2011. The stairway in the foreground is Apollo era and aging. The stairway leads to the transporter, shown here just behind the stairway. On November 23, 2011 NASA took reporters by the stairs, and by elevator to the very top of the pad, about 350-feet above sea level on open grates. The next time this configuration will be on Pad 39-B will be, at the earliest, 2017.

Pad 39-B, like its identical twin, 39-A, once launched men to the Moon and was active during the shuttle program. One historical fact about 39-B is not a happy one. Challenger lifted off from this pad on January 28, 1986, and exploded.

Today all that remains of the original pad is a stairway from the Apollo era that ended in 1972. It was that stairway that Pete and other reporters began their climb on Wednesday up 350-feet to the top of the new Pad 39-B which will be under construction until 2017 at an estimated total cost of $350-million.

It’s not clear what vehicles, if any, will actually launch from 39-B, and the date of 2017 is just that — a date.

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In the week before the Mars Science Laboratory launch, NASA took the opportunity of the large number of accredited media being on site to brief the press on a wide range of topics, beyond the MSL itself.

Subjects included the radiological lab where radiation is monitored when, as will be the case with the MSL, radioactive materials are on board a launched vehicle.

The media was briefed in detail on how, currently, NASA plans to place humans on Mars and return them safely at the end of a 900 day mission (to be launched no sooner than 2030).

The media visited the Vehicle Assembly Building and saw the Shuttle Endeavour, now parked there … and more.

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The Mars Science Laboratory ... (courtesy, NASA)

The MSL launch has been pushed back one day from its original launch date. Now the planned launch will be no earlier than Saturday, November 26, 2011.

For NASA updates and more on this mission, click HERE

BRIEFING SCHEDULE, === click TO enlarge

The launch will be from Kennedy Space Center. A series of briefing will be broadcast on line daily starting Monday, November 21

Go to http://www.nasa.gov — then go to live NASA TV using the attached schedule for MSL (Mars Science Laboratory). The schedule for Monday and Tuesday is on the left — click on image to enlarge and read.

Why this Mission really matters.
This is truly a remarkable laboratory that NASA is launching on November 25, 2011. The briefings will explain (again) why Mars matters so much and discuss the nature of Mars and how it is a huge repository of scientific information that will help us better understand Earth.


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The roof of the largest building in the world, NASA's Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, is 515 feet above sea level, 40 +stories high. Look carefully at the left of this photograph taken by Pete Crow at 11:21 am on July 8, 2011. In the distance Atlantis sits on Launch Pad 39A. In less than eight minutes Atlantis would be gone, headed to space for the final time. When Atlantis returns on July 20 or July 21, she will be towed down the road to her permanent home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center Museum. Atlantis is expected to arrive at the Museum, after much prep work, in 2012.

Photographers on the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) wait for the launch of Atlantis (in distance, far left).

For safety reasons only 40 people are allowed on the VAB roof for launches because escape from the roof is limited.

Although there are five narrow stairways leading from the roof, one on each side of the building and one in the center at the elevator stairwell, only one stairway — the west stairway — is deemed suitable in the event of a mishap on the launch pad. That is because to escape from the roof NASA policy is for escapees to flee as far away from the launch pad as possible before exiting the roof.

No one has ever had to escape the VAB roof and, with the exception of the Challenger tragedy in 1986, no mishaps ever occurred in launching the space shuttles. Challenger broke up over the Atlantic Ocean with the loss of the entire crew. No one on the ground was injured.

Among the 25 or so news organizations NASA granted VAB roof access for the final historic launch from approximately 3,000 accredited media were the Smithsonian Magazine, the Orlando Sentinel and two video and still photographers from Seine/Harbour® Productions, Studio City, California/The Grove Sun, Grove, Oklahoma — Carol Anne Swagler and Peter Michael Crow.

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Pete Crow STS-135 photograph from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building, 11:28 EDT, July 8, 2011. The full sequence of these photographs and those of Carol Anne Swagler will be posted later.

Among the stories and photographs that will be posted are …

1. STS-135 Launch, additional photographs from roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building showing, in sequence, the Launch of the Shuttle Atlantis, OV-04.

STS-135 Mission Patch

2. Days 2 and 3 prior to Launch — this includes briefings on upcoming NASA unmanned launches, visits to the SpaceX launch pad and firing room and much more.

3. Houston, Days 7 and 8 before Launch — this includes inside of the Shuttle Flight Simulators where astronauts trained (now dismantled), Shuttle OV-95 (to be dismantled after landing of STS-135), the International Space Station and Soyuz mockups, and briefing on NASA scientific and technical programs, including the newest Off-Earth Rover vehicle and Robotnaut, the robot now on the ISS which can perform many of the duties currently performed by the 6 astronauts on the ISS.

4. Houston Mission Control — STS-135 mission, Houston’s Johnson Space Center, Monday, July 11 to STS-135’s expected landing in Florida on the morning of July 20.

5. Apollo 13 and STS-107 Artifacts on display at JSC and KSC, including the Apollo 13 Panel which lit up (“Houston, we have a problem …”) and the flight recorder recovered from Columbia/STS-107.
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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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And so the Launch Day (L-0) day begins. I have skipped coming to the Cape on L-1, Thursday, July 7, 2011, because of the rain and because what we wanted to see — the press conferences — were on NASA-TV. We could sit in our kitchen, eat with feet propped. Another reason to skip L-1 was because I had been over to the Cape for three straight days — and this was coming off of two days in Houston at Johnson Space Center last week.

Two Canadian journalists walk in front of the countdown clock about 2:30 am, Friday, July 8, 2011. Like many journalists they paid their way, and drove more than a day to get to the Cape. If the shuttle failed to launch on Friday, they might be able to stay Saturday, but by Sunday they would have to begin their long trek home. The space program is a beacon to young journalists like these kids, and to youth in general. The tiny dot on the far right is Pad 39A and the Shuttle Atlantis..

I was tired. Carol Anne was exhausted, and even skipped L-2 (Wednesday).

By skipping L-1 we did miss the restraction of the Rotating Service Structure, but early in the afternoon we got a call from a friend at the Cape asking us if we planned to miss the driving rain and mud out at Pad 39-A. Unn, the answer was Yes.

I noticed, in going through my notes for the recent launches, that I had also skipped L-1 during the STS-134 launch in May. Must have been tired for that one, too.

11 pm, July 7, 2011 — To the Cape. Carol Anne and I had decided to coast over to the Cape starting at 11 pm. That should put us inside the security bubble by 12:15 am if traffic was minimal as we expected it would be. The unknown factor was how many people would be streaming over hoping to find spots to view the launch outside of KSC. We were betting that in the rain the 1-million expected people would be in no hurry — and we were right.

Traffic on the Beachline, Highway 528, was moving at its accustomed 75-80 miles an hour, complete with the usual tailgaters.

The JSC press crew doesn't always love the Tweeters like I do. For the second attempt to launch on STS-134 the Tweet tent vanished. This time Tweeters autos have been banished to a far away parking lot. No matter -- the Tweeters are also enthusiastic and are one-timers (they do not get to come back a second time). There are only 150 of them and I'm looking for them. It's 3 o'clock in the morning and none are anywhere to be seen. Do you know where your Tweeter is? I don't.

Inside the security bubble, 12:15 am, Friday, July 8, 2011. We wanted to be at the media site by the time the decision was made on tanking. This was the crucial decision — unless they tanked, the mission was scrubbed, but I was sure they would tank and, right on, at 2:01 am they began tanking.

The Tweeters had been banned from the media parking lot and must trudge better part of a half mile to their tent. Good for us, and great for finding a parking spot in the media parking lot. Not so good for the Tweeters, especially if it rains.

By the time we were at the Cape the rain, driving at times throughout Thursday, had abated to a sprinkle. At the media parking lot we were waved through and found a spot in the front row. Carol Anne objected because she planned to sleep, but then re-thought it and decided front row, closest to the media center, was all good especially if it rained. The car stayed in the front row.

The media center, 12:45 am. The media center is deserted with only a skeleton public relations crew. Carol Anne and I walk across the street to the cafeteria taking advantage of a break in the rain. The selection is thin, but we get coffee — something which, inexplicably, the canteen wagon which will show up about 3 am never has.

As we walk back rain begins again. Carol Anne vanishes to sleep in the car and asks me to tell her if the tanking and the mission are scrubbed. “If the mission is scrubbed,” I grumble, “we’re going home. You can figure it out if the car starts moving.”

Clearly more sleep and less coffee is in order. I apologize.

Carol Anne sleeps and the mission is not scrubbed.

3:20 am, the press site.I drift the press site out to the Tweetup tent looking for Tweeters. No luck. I find three young kids from Canada covering their first shuttle launch. They’re pumped. I love their enthusiasm. We swap stories about Los Angeles where one of them lived.

The only action at the Tweetup Tent at 3 am was the Spacevidcast. I think I should know who they are and what they do, but fact is I don't and they were busy broadcasting to godknowswho and taking phone calls. So I waded on through the wet grass and occasional mud, stepping over cables and watching out for nearly invisible ropes.

The Tweetup tent is empty but there’s a broadcast going on just outside the front door. I cannot figure out who they are, and no one seems interested in telling me. I drift on.

It is dark and muddy out here. Cables snake everywhere. Normally I cut across areas, but now I find there are even ropes tied to nearly invisible posts. Dangerous. I decide for one of the few times in my life to obey the rules. I follow the road and the signs and while it takes longer to get back to the media center, I arrive alive.

Androlly. We may be inside the bubble, but son Andrew and his son-to-be wife, Molly,are not going to be. I call them Androlly because they are, in their words, “inside the love bubble” and can be considered, for now, a single entity. However, Carol Anne does not entirely approve. I also have taken to calling our two granddaughters, age 6 and 8, whose last name is “Dagner”, “The Dagnets”. Again, there is not rousing approval.

Andrew and Molly earlier had planned to drive overnight from northern Florida where they both work, and then to bunk at our home in Celebration for the weekend.

But, of course, the Friday launch is so iffy that an all night drive after working all week long.

It is now almost 3:30 am and while they are not exactly missing in action, they are out there somewhere in the dark and we’re not quite sure where.

All sorts of memorabilia are for sale in a small wagon that is always parked in the parking lot, but is rarely open. Long before dawn members of the press were lining up. Another shop selling STS-135 merchandise was located adjacent to the cafeteria. Also, companies like Boeing handed out pins, stickers and notebooks at their desk in the media center. Just drift by and ask.

Wait — here’s an idea! Maybe someone should just call them.

They have stayed in Tallahassee — worked late, read the weather reports and figured it would be a no-go. They’ll be here Sunday if they are right.

4:30 am, Media Press Site. I grow weary of working on revisions in a screenplay, and decide to stretch. In a few moments I am outside gazing at the huge assembly of media trucks in the parking lot and now covering the old site of the Grandstand which was destroyed in a hurricane in 2004.

I grow nostalgic realizing that my time at the Cape and at this media site are coming to an end. I have been covering events here since the final Apollo flight, Apollo 17, in December 1972 — before most people covering STS-135 were born.

I will be here only once more — for the landing of the Atlantis in a couple of weeks. And then, in all likelihood, my visits to the press site, and indeed the use of the press site itself, are likely to be rare.

What really will not happen again is the assemblage of media here this morning. It rivals that first launch I covered, Apollo 17, when 2,200 were accredited. For STS-135 there are probably 3,000, plus another 150 Tweeters.

Nothing that NASA has in the pipeline will be-stir media interest like this again for at least a decade — and perhaps, going the way NASA is going, never again.

4:55 am The Annex. I was exiled to the dreaded Annex during STS-134, the previous launch.

When too many media request workspace, NASA/KSC has a backup building called The Annex. During STS-134 I was exiled to the Annex which has great air conditioning, but feels remote.

I always have work space in the main media center and until STS-134 I had never heard of “The Annex.” Then arriving to cover STS-134 in April 2011, I found myself in it, facing some nice German guy and sitting beside other well-meaning foreign journalists who spoke no English but smiled a lot.

It was not that the Annex was bad workspace — it was actually very good workspace.

But reporting from the Annex was like trying to cover the launch from Bulgaria.

The main media center is alive, throbbing with activitiy and I could learn things there by eavesdropping, something that I, like most journalists, excel at and take pride in.

A woman primps before going on the air in one of the many setups for TV lining the edge of the press site.

Well. There was no one and nothing to eavesdrop on in the Annex unless you spoke Farci. The best thing about that well-turned out dump was it had great air conditioning.

I was curious to see how the Annex was faring during STS-135, and wanted to know who’d managed to get themselves shipped out there — so I stopped by.

The Annex was, as expected, rumpled at 5 am with a guy sleeping on four chairs.

I drifted around and was stunned to find such organizations as UPI stuck in the back row. The rest was to be expected — the usual gaggle of TV stations from places like Honolulu and foreign media from countries I’d never heard of.

5:10 am The canteen wagon. Buried in the parking I see a glow that doesn’t quite look like other satellite trucks. The canteen wagon was supposed to arrive about 3 pm, but it is usually parked behind the media center, and this morning it is no where to be seen.

The Snack Mobile actually had coffeee. it never does. But the Snack Mobile got a new, hard to find spot out in the parking lot instead of just behind the media center. Nonetheless, enough people found it fast enough to drink all the coffee. So, then, the Snack Mobile didn't have coffee. Situation Normal.

I decide to investigate since I’m roaming around aimlessly anyway. Lo and behold, it is the canteen, but since they never have coffee I figure I won’t be interested.

Entry to the wagon is from the back, exiting past the driver who is the cashier. I lean into the front door and ask if she has coffee.


“Really?” They never have coffee.


I go inside and find I am standing behind two foreign journalists who are having trouble filling the coffee cups, finding lids, finding the sugar — hell, maybe finding their zippers. Time passes. They continue to dither about one thing and another. They decide to allow me to pass and to get my coffee, so I do. But now they are in front of where the coffee lids are, and they are dithering again.

I smile. They smile. The woman running the canteen smiles.

Eventually I escape with my coffee which, remarkably, is still hot.
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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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