Friday, April 29, 2011
The last launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor...or not!
Wednesday night, I got Micah from the nursery then headed to Jonah's Mission Friends class to get him. My friend Emily came down the hall calling my name. She proceeded to tell me that her uncle works in the control room of NASA and 4 passes for the VIP section of the Final launch of Endeavor. She asked if I wanted to take Jonah and go with she and Mandy. Um, YEP! My only catch was finding a babysitter. That would be a LONG day and Dan was already committed to do a funeral this morning and then sing with The Florida Worship Choir tonight in Brandon, FL. So, I immediately got on the hunt for a babysitter for Micah right after I called my friend Reagan to gloat. He is a massive fan of the Shuttle program and ALL things NASA.
One of my friends gladly took Micah so I could experience this with Jonah. I dropped him off to her at 9:30 a.m. and headed to meet Mandy and Emily. Kennedy Space Center is only 80 minutes from our house but they were expecting 750,000 people on the Space Coast for this final launch. So, we had to leave WAY earlier than you typically would to go that distance.
And, the three of us are directionally challenged so we were somewhat concerned about actually getting to the place we were supposed to be. The pass we were given had no physical address, only a map. None of us read maps very well either. We were SOLELY relying on our GPS to get us to KSC then hopeful someone would direct us once we got there. We knew we would be near the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and either in front of or behind the press.
It didn't take us long to get there since we left almost 6 hours before launch time. We barely got in any traffic at all. We made our way through all of the restricted areas by just showing our pink placard. It is amazing what a piece of paper will do for you on a day like this. We followed the directions that led us near the VAB so I snapped a quick picture of it since I was unsure if we would see it again. Little did I know, we were right next to it.
We pulled into our space and got out to see our first view of the Launch Pad. As you can see, we were on the back side of the Launch pad but as soon as lift-off happened, we would have a fabulous view. You can see the orange rocket booster (?) in order to tell where the shuttle is.
There were bleachers like you see on TV for the launches, tents set up with chairs and a huge area to view the launch. Or, you could spread your blankets out and use your own chairs. We chose this option since we had a busy 4 year old with us. I packed a backpack full of things to entertain him during the long wait. He quickly opened that, dumped it out to see what was in there and then gave me his most disgusted smile when I asked for a picture.
While we were enjoying a yummy picnic lunch, this helicopter flew over, people jumped up, grabbed cameras, started clapping and cheering. We had no idea who was in it but we took pictures just like everyone else. The guy on the loudspeaker was telling who it was but we couldn't hear for all the noise. People around us said it was the team of astronauts being taken to the buses for the trip over. There were lots of people inside that copter, so who knows? They flew very low, circled several times and waved. Whoever it was certainly entertained the crowd and made us think it was someone important.
This is our view of the VAB if we looked to our left. The launch pad was in front of us and to our right a little.
Jonah was great all day long. He went with the flow and hardly even complained about the long waits and long times in the car. I knew that he really wouldn't care much about the event except the few minutes that actually surrounded lift-off but I wanted him to experience this just so he could say he did. This really was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I'm glad he was there.
He loves Emily and Mandy so much. He has been around them since his first day in the nursery. Mandy took him on several special outings when I was so sick last year. Emily cuts his hair. He loves them both and they love him. It makes my heart happy to see him form special relationships with people.
As were were enjoying our nice lunch, the depressed sounding man came over the intercom once more to announce this mission had been scrubbed. While it was disappointing, it was no where near as disappointing than if we had sat there another 3 hours and then it be scrubbed seconds before. We had barely even started getting excited. So, rather than be bummed, we finished our picnic lunch in order to let some of the traffic get a head start. Then, we loaded up and headed home. Except, it took us one hour to go six miles. ONE HOUR TO GO SIX MILES! Ugh!
I can only imagine how awful the traffic would have been if it had been scrubbed closer to launch or if we had seen the actual launch. The area we were in was for 1600 spectators but there were only 300-500 there. (Remember, the launch was still 3 hours away) The other public spaces had lots of people but nothing like it would have been even 1 hour later. I believe the warnings on the news of it taking 6 hours to drive what is normally 1 hour. Thus, the reason I filled up with gas on the way there.
As we were pulling out, I snapped a few pictures of the things around us. We were located right in front of the press area. It was so cool to see all of the news media there. There were TONS of satellites and antennas.
While I'm sad the launch was scrubbed today, it really was a fun day. We laughed...A LOT! We gained confidence in our directional ability. We decided to never ever use a man's restroom. Did I mention that we laughed...A LOT?? Fun day!! Hope to see you soon, Endeavor!