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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.


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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.


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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.


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(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.


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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).


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(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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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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Tanking begins. Candrea Thomas, NASA public affairs office, told media gathered at the press center at 1:50 am that the decision had been made to begin tanking the Atlantis at 2:01 am. Tanking normally tanks several hours.

Shuttle Atlantis at Pad 39-A, Kennedy Space Center, 2 am, July 8, 2011, at the moment when the countdown clock was restarted at T-6 hours. There are a series of built-in holds in the launch schedule. Although the countdown clock shows 6 hours to launch, launch is actually more than 9 hours away. - photograph Courtesy of NASA TV

This is one of the last significant steps in preparing the shuttle for launch.

Chances of weather allowing launch at 11:26 am EDT remained only 30-percent, Ms. Thomas added.

The Friday, July 8, 2011 launch window is 3 minutes and 18 seconds from 11:31:46 am EDT to 11:35:04 am.

Weather throughout the week had deterioirated until by Friday, chances of launch were rated by Kathy Winters, shuttle weather officer, at only 30-percent. Nonetheless, it is policy of the NASA launch teams to continue to move forward, weather and mechanicals permitting.

Sometimes it pays off. Shuttles have been launched in a 90-percent no-go weather window when weather cleared briefly and sufficiently to permit launch. But mostly it doesn’t work out.

If the shuttle is not launched on Friday, betting is that NASA will skip the Saturday window and try to launch again on Sunday. Getting its launch crew home and back, with sufficient time to rest, through roads expected to be crowded by about 1-million people will likely prove impossible.

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Two lightning strikes at 12:31 pm and 12:40 pm, one only 515 feet from the pad caused NASA to conduct an engineering review to be certain the Atlantis was unharmed. It was. - photograph of one of the lightning strikes, Courtesy NASA TV

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NASA Updates on Launch of Atlantis are HERE
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4:30 pm Thursday, July 7, 2011 … from NASA Web Site
Engineering Review Board Meets to Discuss Lightning Strikes
Thu, 07 Jul 2011 04:28:36 PM ED
NASA is convening an Engineering Review Board meeting at 4:30 p.m. EDT to discuss the status of space shuttle Atlantis and the launch pad following a lightning strike earlier today. Lightning was detected within a third of a mile of the pad.

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If you can successfully land the shuttle using the simulator, NASA/JSC will award you a certificate -- fill in your own name.

Astronauts train both at Johnson Space Center, and in Russia. Language on the International Space Station is both in English and Russian. Astronauts must be fluent in both.

After the STS-135 NASA Mission, the United States will have no way back to the ISS except on the Russian Soyuz. The tab will be $55-million per ride, tips for the driver are included.

American Astronauts during the American shuttle program trained in Houston where extensive mockups of the shuttle, ISS, the space shuttle OV-95, flight simulators, and a visual reality lab, were located.

Come fly the shuttle. On Friday afternoon, July 1, 2011, NASA invited any accredited media who were interested to their facilities and offered opportunities to fly the simulators. Few took the opportunity — in our group there was only one other person, wife of a NASA employee, who trooped along.

Pete Crow docking Space Shuttle OV-95 to the International Space Station 230 miles above the Red Sea in a NASA avionics simulator at Johnson Space Center, Houston, on Friday, July 1, 2011. The joystick on the right of the picture, and a button out of view under his left hand are the only docking controls. Docking takes place on the flight deck with the Commander facing towards the bay and the back of the shuttle while looking into the bay, and down at the docking hatch which is located in the bay. Shuttle commanders dock; shuttle pilots (second in command) undock.

In all Carol Anne landed the shuttle twice from 10,000 feet successfully landing on the SLF in Florida.

Pete landed the shuttle once, and docked the shuttle with the International Space station.

After docking Pete remarked how easy it was, and the flight instructor agreed, adding, “the tough part is catching up with the ISS, modulating the shuttle’s speed so that the shuttle and ISS are flying exactly the same speed. Once the shuttle and the ISS are flying together, easing the shuttle closer to the ISS and docking is fairly easy.”

My career ended today. July 1, 2011, ended use of space shuttle simulators at Johnson Space Center. On Friday morning the crew of the Atlantis, STS-135, spent four hours on the simulators. In the afternoon we were invited in to fly the simulators.

Shortly before 7 pm, in the control room of the simulators at Johnson Space Center, Pete ran out of questions for the man who ran the simulator control room.

Pete offered his hand and shook hands. “Okay. That’s it,” the man said, “my career has ended.”

The simluators will be broken up and sent to scrap or to universities before the end of July.

The personnel who ran the simulators and maintained them will leave NASA when the STS-135 misson lands and ends in Florida. They keep their jobs, with nothing to do, through the landing of the shuttle in case something goes wrong and they need to assist Atlantis and its crew.
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When you fly the space shuttle simulators, the control room monitors everything you do by video camera, and computers compile a huge amount of data on each action you take. A flight instructor sits in the right hand seat beside you in the pilot seat giving gentle encouragement from the start of the simulation at 10,000 feet to wheels stop on the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF=runway). On the day Pete flew the simulator the approach was from the north and landing was on Runway 15.


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In landing, the flight instructor encourages flying by the heads up display from 10,000 feet the final seconds of the landing. The runway is in view once the shuttle completes its final bank. In the final seconds, the flight instructor encourages flying both the runway and the headsup display. The pilot (flight instructor) drops the landing gear and deploys the parachute once on the ground. In all four astronauts fly on the shuttle flight deck and all four are monitoring and assisting the commander in the approach and landing. This is the report on Carol Anne's second of two landings of the shuttle. A trained eye, comparing it with Pete's landing just above, will find Carol Anne's landing was vastly superior to Pete's.


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In all about 20 members of the media flew the simulators on Friday afternoon, July 1, 2011, and no one dumped the shuttle into the Atlantic Ocean. A flight instructor was sitting in the right hand seat offering advice and encouragement, and was responsible for the 100% success rate.


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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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Dawn, Friday June 17, 2011, at Kennedy Space Center Launch Pad 39-A. Atlantis is on the pad, and the RSS (rotating service structure) is open. During the night the final payload in the shuttle program arrived at the pad ready to be placed in the Atlantis cargo bay.

The media and KSC employees were invited to visit 39-A on Friday, June 17, 2011.

Shuttles were launched from either Pad 39-A or Pad 39-B during the shuttle program from 1981 to 2011. Today only Pad 39-A remains.

Pad 39-B was in the process of being repurposed for the Constellation program, when President Obama canceled the Constellation program, reinstated it, and then canceled it again.

The future of both Pad 39-A and the now demolished Pad 39-B, like the future of the American spaceport at Kennedy Space Center, is uncertain.

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CLICK to ENLARGE // Over Pete Crow's left shoulder, the white rectangular box holds the payload for the Atlantis shown here on Pad 39-A the afternoon of June 17, 2011. The payload arrived overnight June 16-17 at the pad and will be loaded into the Atlantis' bay on Monday, June 20. - photo, Carol Anne Swagler for Seine/Harbour® Productions

Atlantis edged closer to its planned July 8, 2011, launch on Friday, June 17, 2011, when the payload for its bay arrived at Pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Friday was employee day at the Pad. All KSC employees who wished to visit the Launch Pad were invited to do so although, unlike the press, they were not allowed to go onto the Pad itself, or up on the Rotating Service Structure (the RSS).

The RSS is currently retracted from the Shuttle, and in the photograph is behind and to the right of Pete. But beginning on Monday and until about 18 hours before launch, the RSS will be tucked around and protecting the Shuttle allowing, among other activities, the payload to be placed into the Atlantis’ cargo bay.

See video of how it works HERE.

The cargo on this final launch in the shuttle program’s 30-year history includes provisions for the International Space Shuttle for a year and an innovative new way to re-energize fading satellites in space.

When STS-135, the current mission, ends in late July, NASA will have launched its shuttle fleet 135 times with two tragic mishaps, a safety record far better than the estimates at the beginning of the program in 1981 when one estimate anticipated the loss of a shuttle every 25 missions.
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Atlantis viewed from Level 255 of the Rotating Service Structure (RSS) on June 17, 2011. The RSS does not have floors, it has "levels" measured in feet. The highest the elevators in the RSS go is level 255, or 255 feet above the pad floor. However, stairways on the RSS continue up an additional 40 feet above the highest elevator level ending at Level 295. Visitors to the RSS are escorted by people who receive extensive safety training. When exiting elevators, visitors are encouraged to "look up -- do not look down" because the RSS is built with almost entirely open grate flooring. Narrow catwalks extend from the center of the structure with only modest railings. If heights bother you, walking on open grates at the top of the RSS will terrify you. - photo, petecrow for Seine/Harbour® Productions

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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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