It's been a damp day here at Kennedy Space Center. As you may have seen on Twitter, we're here to witness the final launch of Atlantis--the last hurrah for the space shuttle.
The rain has been on and off all afternoon, but the drizzle did not stop us from heading out to the pad for a final farewell to Atlantis before launch, which as of this writing is still scheduled for 11:26 AM EST tomorrow.
Despite the wetness, optimism remains. At 5:45 p.m. EST, the engineering review board meeting concluded with the decision to continue the countdown. The meeting also dispelled a moment of brief concern when a lightning storm crossed the launch pad at around noon today. Two strikes were recorded in the pad's vicinity, but the shuttle and its launch support equipment were unharmed.
The next major go/no-go moment will occur at 1:30 a.m. EST Friday morning, when NASA officials meet to decide whether to proceed with fueling Atlantis's external tank for launch. If weather is still not a complete wash, fueling will begin just after 2:00 a.m. EST Friday morning.
It had been on my Bucket List for a long time . . . and with opportunities running short, I decided to make a serious effort to view a launch of a Space Shuttle. That was a few Moons ago; it took near a year and five(!) trips from California to finally "git-er-done."
A complicated, exhausting year it was . . . finally rewarded by the vision of Endeavour lifting magnificently on a bright flame, only to disappear into solid overcast a short 20 seconds later. I probably couldn’t have survived a longer show. As it was, the brief encounter grabbed me, somehow, and shook me into a sack of emotional jelly. Unfortunately, cameras were rolling. (Watch the video at vimeo.com/flyingfoxone/aflamesobright )
And there’s a book, too. Information at: borders.bookbrewer.com/content/last-rocket-show-paperback-version
It's also available as an eBook. Search for "The Last Rocket Show" on any of these sites: Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Kobo, Borders, Google books, etc.
I was lucky enough to see the 4th of July Launch in 2006, from the flight deck of the USS Nassau, about 10 Miles off-shore. I wish we had been closer, but naturally we had to stay a little ways out. We were due East at the time of launch, so the shuttle went pretty much directly over us, I got a few pictures, but because of the distance all you can really see is a long column of smoke. I will definitely never forget that day.
Hopefully the end of the shuttles will be the beginning of something better. I question why we are launching the shuttles and then bringing them back for their last mission. The shuttles are a space vehicle. When returned they will be stripped and put on display. Why not leave the fully loaded shuttles in space, sent up with a minimal crew to be returned by another ship? If Mars is truely the next destination it would be nice to have extra food and supplies already waiting in space. Also, the shuttles could be a nearby safe ship if something goes wrong with the space station. Leave the shuttles in space where they belong.