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CmdrTaco at Kennedy Space Center 105

Matthew Travis from the Ares Institute Inc helped me get a press pass for the STS-135 Launch. so I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for no scrub. I'm tweeting as @cmdrtaco from the launch if you are into that sort of thing. I'll have more later, but for now you'll have to make do with a photo I took, as well as a brief video clip I took of Atlantis on the pad at night.

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CmdrTaco at Kennedy Space Center

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  • by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @11:18PM (#36690570) Homepage Journal
    The green eye of jealousy is rearing it's ugly head. I wonder how many people who feel this way are the ones who always complain about things, but never ever do anything.

    The shuttle launch is something that is likely never going to happen again, and those who have not had the opportunity should be jealous. I have seen it from four miles out. It is a vision to behold. I have also been working in mission control during a two flights and been in the integration areas at KSC. I know how lucky I am, and am always saddened by those who choose jealousy over action. To many people think they have seen or done something because they have been to Disneyland, or a major concert, or maybe a major sporting event. But the something like the Shuttle matters beyond the technology of a entertainment event or who wins or loses an event. The shuttle represents our human capability to coordinate thousands of people and mechanical parts into a functioning whole that breaks us from the limits of the earth.

    So rather than being jealous, go out and do something useful. Quite wasting your time trying to be the Big Man on slashdot, compensating for the lack of Real Innovation. Do Something.

  • Bring a coat. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Zadaz ( 950521 ) on Friday July 08, 2011 @12:26AM (#36690880)

    If you're going to be in the press observation bunker bring a coat. Before the launch they chill that room to something like 55F. Almost immediately after launch the temp jumps into the 90's from the energy released by the rocket.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2011 @04:52AM (#36692044)

    I worked on the shuttle program at JSC for 7 years and visited KSC last month after a cruise vacation. Unfortunately, I've never seen a launch live and never will.

    I left JSC in the mid-90s, but tried to keep my excitement for the space program. I vividly recall getting up to watch the landing of Columbia live. See, I wrote some flight software code that makes the landings much smoother and deals with the nosewheel steering, along with lots of code that we never saw executed during any mission (thankfully!). 2 and 3 engine out stuff. Later, I worked writing software used in all the mission control centers around the world, but mainly at JSC. That job made me feel connected to the crews in a way that developing software in a building across the street from JSC never did. Working "on-site" daily, walking into Building-30 and 30S, was exciting. Running into John Young, Mike Coates or other famous people was an almost daily occurrence. Actually, Mike was my boss for a few years (3 levels above) and heard a few of us arguing about which cycle some bit needed to be flipped to "meet requirements" one day. Doing it right was more costly ... I had to change 3 more "modules" to flip that single bit on the "first pass of OPS2" and any software change was expensive. Think "multi-threaded" programs, but in real-time software. Whether that bit was flipped then or half a second later after the computers were non-responsive for 45 seconds when going into On-Orbit OPS seriously did not matter. Still, the requirements won over being efficient (where it didn't matter at all) - I think this was 1 issue with the entire shuttle program. Changes were pretty costly.

    Anyway, the morning that Columbia broke up in 2003, was very traumatic for me. I'd sat in the FCR and worked with the flight controllers years ago and was disconnected by 4 states and 3 private sector jobs. Those first 10 minutes when the shuttle didn't show up on TV after re-entry and there simply wasn't any data ... well, I knew it had broken up and everyone on-board was dead. The first indication of issues were temperatures in the landing gear - I'd written code around the landing gear sensors. There were probably 1,000s of people who did something related to the landing gear.

    Anyway, last month as I stood on KSC doing a normal tour that anyone can, I took photos of Atlantis on the pad and saw much of the tourist parts with some family before they had to head off to the airport for flights to different parts of the country. I stayed another 4 hours at the visitor center alone and did everything I could there. I was a little disappointed that it was sorta like a theme park now, it had lost the grimy NASA feeling that I recall walking around behind the scenes at JSC in the different laboratories. Engineers don't usually spend much time on aesthetics. Knowing the shuttle program was ending AND didn't have a follow on project saddened me almost as much as when my father died. As I drove off Merritt Island into the sunset, I actually cried, just a little.

    The manned space flight program elevates all humans, just a little. You don't get that from robots. Sure, it costs lots of money, but not nearly as much as not doing it does. The engineer in me says robotics is much cheaper for space exploration. The human in me says without men/women involved, it is just a cartoon, not real.

    Mankind **needs** a manned space flight program. I'd hope the USA did it, but other countries have the smarts to accomplish it too. They also have a different culture of risk and a willingness to fail in order to succeed that is lacking in the USA today.

    Goodbye shuttle program. I'll be watching Atlantis closely, until she is safely stopped at the end of the runway for the last time.

When a fellow says, "It ain't the money but the principle of the thing," it's the money. -- Kim Hubbard