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At work the other day I was offered an opportunity to get launch passes for the upcoming SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch. This was a big deal, since it was the first launch of this new vehicle. It’s also probably the last chance for Patti to come onto the base and get up close & personal with a launch viewing, since I’m now within a 12 month window to retirement. So we went for it.

We saw the launch today. It was pretty cool. We were among the closest civilians to the pad. Needless to say we were blown away. Also needless to say, I got some good shots. Enjoy.


Lots of photographers were there. KSC, FL. 2/6/18


Launch. KSC, FL. 2/6/18


Liftoff, KSC, FL. 2/6/18


Ascent, KSC, FL. 2/6/18


Ascent, KSC, FL. 2/6/18


Two of the three boosters descending. KSC, FL. 2/6/18


The Orbiter Endeavour left KSC for the last time this morning on its way to L.A.. I got some shots from the causeway between KSC & the Air Force Station, and some from my office window.

Yet another ending in the growing list.

Endeavour Departure, KSC, 9/19/12

Endeavour Departure, KSC, 9/19/12

Endeavour Departure (from my office window), KSC, 9/19/12

Endeavour Departure (from my office window), KSC, 9/19/12

Kennedy Space Center, 8/16/12

Allow me to divert from our trip report for a few moments to show y’all some photos from yet another in a long (too long) series of “lasts” that have been taking place here on the Space Coast over the past few years. On August 16th, two Orbiters came nose to nose for the last time. Endeavour was wheeled into the VAB to wait for her ride to her final resting place (Los Angeles) and Atlantis, which is staying here at the KSC Visitor Center, took her place in the OPF for final processing.

Just over a year ago, these kinds of photo ops would have drawn a few thousand workers away from their desks so that they could snap some pictures and just be near these insanely cool, and even more insanely complicated, vehicles. Now, as the local paper reported, there were only a few dozen people. I see this phenomenon every day as I drive around the base, easily finding parking in empty lots that used to be a real pain in the ass to drive to. I wish it was still a pain in the ass.

Sidenote: I was told the other day that it has been reported that 75% of the folks laid off have found work again either here or elsewhere in the country. That’s the good news. I also read about another ex-worker that committed suicide. That’s the bad.

Enjoy the pictures.

Kennedy Space Center, 8/16/12

Kennedy Space Center, 8/16/12

Kennedy Space Center, 8/16/12

STS-135, Atlantis, lifted off earlier today on the last launch of any meaning for the foreseeable future. As I type this, there are friends of mine on the launch team with all kinds of emotions running through them. Many people have been laid off with many, many more heading out the door later this month. Sad stuff. The entire launch team is like a family with a common purpose. They did their jobs well and with passion and they are justifiably proud of their 30 years worth of accomplishments. After wheel stop on this mission, the US will no longer have a Manned Space Flight Program, at least an active one. Time to move on.

The first launch I saw live was STS-6 (Challenger). Today I stayed home, unwilling to brave the roads to watch from close up. 1,000,000 people all hopping in their cars at the same time is not my idea of fun. (I talked a bit about that here.) I watched from my back yard but, due to weather, I only saw it for about 2 seconds before it slipped into the clouds. The view below is a quick shot from my backyard. It’s something that every taxpayer should have seen at least once. I was very fortunate. I can only hope that I will have the chance to see men launched from KSC again before I retire. Odds are not good at this point, but you never know.

PS: A huge pat on the back to every member of the Launch Processing System (LPS) team, past and present. LPS comprises the Computer and Display Systems that checkout and launch the Shuttle. During 30 years of operations, there was never a launch delay due to an issue with LPS. That’s the kind of people I work with. I couldn’t be prouder of them.

STS-6 Rollout, Spring of 1983

STS-135, 7/8/11

Yours truly in the Orbiter Pilots seat, Long, long ago

On a beautiful Thursday afternoon, and after a series of delays, the shuttle Discovery lifted off Pad-A and headed downrange for the last time. There are only two more launches until we enter a long dry spell for the manned space flight program. For the final launch I will certainly be on the base (Kennedy Space Center) somewhere, but for this one, I left work a couple of hours early, giving up a great view (and photo op). Lots of people are coming to our area to view the launches. Lots and lots. After many years of the general public being pretty blase about them, these last few shots are attracting hordes of people. And they are coming in their cars.

Imagine a couple of hundred-thousand people coming to your community for the day. Imagine that the best sites-of-choice for most of these folks involve crossing multiple bridges. Then they all get in their cars at the same time and try to get home. You can imagine the result. Launch was about 5:00 pm. There were still jams at 12:30 the next morning. It wasn’t pretty.

I had to work the previous launch, so I couldn’t avoid dealing with it. The secret is to get out quickly in order to miss the bow-wave of humanity heading west. I have to get out before the tourists leaving the Space Center clog the Center’s exit then head south to get to a bridge before the mass of cars from the beachside reaches them. I have two choices of causeways to take to the mainland. The first one leads straight to the most popular areas and is all highway. It’s always a parking lot as I drive beneath it. The second one is a surface street that also leads straight to the beach, but it takes longer for them to get to the bridge. I can usually make it across there and home free without too much problem.

This launch I went to a viewing stand out on a hiking trail in the swamp/marsh to take a couple of photos and run home. Turns out there was a branch in the way. Limited photos, but it was a pretty shot. And I got home after only an extra 20 minutes.

STS-133, 2/24/11, Merritt Island, FL

Geek Note: That branch really pisses me off. I used Google Earth to draw a line from the viewing stand to the pad. I noted local landmarks to help me line up the camera towards the pad. Looked perfect, I had been worried about the branch but it wasn’t it the way. When it launched I was pointing too far east. I don’t know what happened, but I’ll blame operator error for now.

Launch Day, late 60s-early 70s?

My career in the aerospace industry was influenced from a young age by my father, a mechanical engineer. I remember not being able to sleep on a Christmas Eve due to the repeated thumping on the living room ceiling, which happened to be the floor of my bedroom. It turned out that it was caused by my dad and Uncle Bob playing with one of my presents, a toy launch pad with a rocket that launched pretty well.  Well enough at least to keep a 6 year old boy awake with odd noises.

In Baltimore we lived in a suburb called Lutherville, which was adjacent to another suburb called Timonium. My dad and a couple of his buddies went through a model rocket phase which led to the creation of the Lutherville-Timonium Rocket Launching And Martini Drinking Society. I was the Beer Drinking Division.

We went out several times to “launch” and the experience directly benefited my later career by training me in the acceptance of failure. Let’s just say that Rocket Science was not their strong point. The white rocket shown above was mine, and one of the few that launched successfully. BTW: that’s my dad on the left. The gentleman who is showing us his derriere is Mr. Morris. Mr. Morris had a little yellow two stage rocket that never did launch successfully. He ended up giving it to me in disgust. I never got it to go either.

Years later, while living within the Baltimore City limits, I would go next door to the high school field and launch. I think I shot a total of maybe 20 times from that site. Seven or eight of those times I had to get the local kids to climb on the roof of the school to retrieve the rocket. Three or four times I had to get the Duty Officer of the Marine Corps Reserve outfit that was next door to go on their roof for the retrieval. He wasn’t very happy with us, but he got used to it.

These were fun times that I had with my dad and his friends. This was at the beginning of my teens, a stretch of time that was, well, turbulent for all concerned. It was one last period of bonding until I emerged on the other side of being a teenager. Nowadays I’m still involved in shooting off things that go whoosh into the sky. The scale is a bit different, but the idea is the same. And just as much fun.

STS-121, July 4, 2006, KSC, FL