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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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  • It's betting scrubbed.

    Only a 30% chance of acceptable launch weather tomorrow.

    • Woops, cynicism fail. []

      For future reference, I work in the launch industry, and we routinely launch on days with 20% to 30% chance for acceptable weather. Try not to be so negative. This is space we're talking about!
      • I stand corrected.

        I was just remembering a lot of the recent launches where it has taken 4, 5, or even 6 attempts due to weather or other problems.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @10:30PM (#36690296)
    I envy you, I've unfortunately never been within 1,000 miles of the cape for a launch. This Christmas break there's a chance I'll be in Florida for a planned Delta I V Heavy launch, if so I'll definitely be taking the family.
    • It's worth it. I was on a beach nearby when a shuttle launched, it was a hell of a thing.

      • I'm in Orlando now, waiting for a friend to catch up so we can relocate over to Titusville for the launch (lost the raffle for a chance to buy KSC tickets... misery). I'm really hoping that it goes off on time though, or gets scrubbed and pushed to one of the next two windows (Sat and Sun). If they push to the third, July 18th iirc, the whole trip was a waste. :(

        But such are the hazards of trying to come see a launch.
        • I'm in Tampa sleeping for the night, and making my way to Titusville around 6-8am. Meetup?

          • If you're in Tampa you're going to want to leave like right now... Space View Park supposedly is packed like 6+ hours before launch. I'm stuck in Orlando waiting on my buddy still (flight delayed). :(

            Though they could still decide to scrub due to weather.
            • Left Tampa at 8am on Friday morning, got an epic spot (and took some great pictures with a 500mm lens/tripod from top of rental car) 25 minutes before launch from Port Canaveral cruise ship parking lot. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

              • We ended up getting out on the bridge just north of Space View Park. Great viewing there.

                It was amazing... made the whole trip and all the aggravation worth it!
        • Most people lost the raffles. I was really hoping for causeway tickets, as the view from the Visitor's Center and Astronaut HOF seem disappointing, not much better than some of the surrounding areas because you don't see the thing leave the pad except on a low resolution jumbotron.

          I had hoped to be there, but I needed to finish a major project in a timely manner before trying again to watch a launch.

          Maybe things will settle down so I can go see the launch of the Curiosity rover in November.

          • I watched STS-131 from the visitors center. It was a night launch, and while I wished I could have had causeway tickets, it was still awesome to watch the sky light up like a sunrise and hear the roar of the engines. We also got to see the ISS pass over us "through the moon" shortly before launch.

        • The next window is the 16th [] if the Delta 4 launch gets off on time, not that that helps you. I don't know how long you're there, but the Delta launch is scheduled for the 14th at 2:49-3:08 a.m., which would be better than nothing.

          • I'd take today, tomorrow or Sunday. 16th isn't an option, and I'd really like to see a shuttle launch. :/
            • Indeed, and best of luck to you (and everyone involved). :)
              The weather went green for a bit, so there is at least a chance!

      • I was fortunate enough to attend a launch a couple years ago, I've never seen anything like it. The sound when the rumble from the main engines hits you, even from miles away, is pretty amazing. Even so, I'm still jealous of anyone who gets to go to this one.

        One of the things that stuck in my head was while we were driving around KSC we were driving past the Vehicle Assembly Building, historic launch pads, control center, the port where the external tanks come in from the sea, and the visitor area that co

        • Great post, thanks.
        • by amn108 ( 1231606 )

          Well written, thanks :)

        • by b0bby ( 201198 )

          I was fortunate enough to attend a launch a couple years ago, I've never seen anything like it. The sound when the rumble from the main engines hits you, even from miles away, is pretty amazing. Even so, I'm still jealous of anyone who gets to go to this one.

          That was the thing that most impressed me, too - we were sitting on our car about ten miles away. It was a predawn launch, and at first you just saw the flames going up. About 30 seconds later, when it was already quite high up, the sound hit & the car was shaking. It ranks up with the aurora borealis for awesome (literally) things I've seen.

          It was neat seeing it in the dark, because about 20 minutes before launch you could see the space station come by, and you realized that pretty soon the shuttle was

  • Press Site (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jra ( 5600 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @10:32PM (#36690310)

    I was there, for the STS-132 Tweetup, and it is absolutely incredible.

    Nearly 2700 press were badged for this launch; the record was 2707 for STS-1, and they might find they've beaten it when all is said and done.

    Shame the press paid no attention to the 100 or so in the middle; perhaps the public would have raised more fuss with its legislators about NASA's miserable budget.

  • Looking forward to live twitpics Cmdr! :) Saw third to last launch in person, it was spectacular. Wish I could make this last one. Fingers crossed for no scrub!
  • This put a smile on my face... I wanted to go but never got the time + money to do it. CmdrTaco being there and posting updates about it will have to do. Now, we all have a pair of eyes on the ground, our Nerd in Cape Canaveral.

  • No Scrub! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Kozz ( 7764 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @10:56PM (#36690434)

    Just for you, Lt. Burrito: []

    (mod me down if you must. that's funny.)

  • Congrats, dude. My best friend was at the launch last year. I hear it's damn cool.

    First no Concorde, now no Shuttle. Can't help but feel civilisation is slipping a little.

    • by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @11:45PM (#36690678)

      Merely ideas before their time. Both nice in theory but ugly reality made them too ineffective for their roles.

      Fortunately, we (as in civilization) have taken our lessons learned quite well. The Concorde was too inefficient relative to high subsonic aircraft (i.e. high fuel costs), and had very limited routes due to restrictions on supersonic land overflights. There is a lot of research going on now to reduce sonic booms to the point of elimination, as well as improving efficiency. The next supersonic commercial aircraft, whenever it is made, will be cost competitive and capable of flying more routes.

      The shuttle's failings are well documented, but the next generation of manned vehicles demonstrate the lessons learned quite well. All have the passenger cabin on top, separate crew and cargo functionality, seek simplicity and are truly reusable rather than merely refurbish-able. Additionally, by seeking multiple independent vendors we are avoiding the single string failures we encountered after Columbia, Challenger, and the current retirement plan.

      We didn't get things right the first time out on either of these, but thats not necessarily a bad thing -- mistakes are often the best way to learn.

      • Well said. It's worth noting that in terms of capability, the shuttle was a huge success. It's just that you had to take all of that capability on every flight, whether you needed it or not, so the economics didn't work. The next generation is quite promising for solving that, and with out losing much capability.

        If we manage to get:
        - One of: Crewed Dragon, Dreamchaser, CST-100, or New Shepherd
        - ISS and Bigelow stations
        - Either SLS or Falcon Heavy

        Then we have essentially all the capabilities of the Shuttl

      • We didn't get things right the first time out on either of these, but thats not necessarily a bad thing -- mistakes are often the best way to learn.

        Will someone please mod the parent up?

        The philosophy presented is something which may benefit young people reading this website.

        Thanks in advance.

    • Ahhh but Sid Meir and Firaxis brought you Civ 5 and will soon bring out Civ 6 complete with no changes aside from bug fixes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 07, 2011 @11:10PM (#36690532)

    DO listen to Rush's Signals the hour before the launch.
    DON'T run up and down the causeway yelling "LITE 'ER UP!"

  • Huh (Score:4, Funny)

    by The_mad_linguist ( 1019680 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @11:13PM (#36690546)

    Where does this "cmdrtaco" guy get off posting this type of story? You'd think this site was his personal blog or something.

  • If you possibly can, GO. I saw one launch - STS-133. I got the VIP site, but even if you watch it from Titusville it's nothing you'll ever forget.

    And to those of you at the Cape: good luck.
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @11:40PM (#36690656)

    Lost in Space []: Doctor Zachary Smith, an agent for an enemy government, is sent to sabotage the mission. He is successful in reprogramming the ship's robot, but in the process becomes trapped on the ship, and because of his excess weight, the ship and all on board become hopelessly lost and it now becomes a fight for survival as the crew tries to find their way back home.

  • Hey, there will be plenty of pictures from other folk during the launch. Let them take the picture during the launch. I wish I were there. I would stand there and take it all in.
  • Why is there a stream of water on the right side tank in the video?

  • That is a great picture. How about adding a link to the original image?
  • 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.

    • Really?
    • 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.

      Are you serious, or did you make that up (or are you passing along a story someone else made up)? As far as I know, the closest you can get is the press viewing area, and even that's 3 miles from the launch pad (the regular visitor viewing area is 7 miles from the launch pad). I know there is a shitload of energy released from those rockets, but for it to be enough to raise the temperature by 30+ degrees 3 miles away seems a bit unbelievable.

  • What kind of wacky adventure will CmdrTaco have next? Tune in next week to find out!

  • 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.

    • mod parent up.
    • People want to believe KSC is on Cape Canaveral...don't believe 'em. Take SR3 North and you'll run right to the 39A & B.

      Grew up on Merritt Island...everyone was involved in KSC in some way. Went to Merritt Island High, eventually worked at KSC for a while (left in '97').

      I'm flying into Orlando if it's not scrubbed, I won't see this launch. This program shutdown is going to hit MI hard. It'll come back, just like it did after Apollo ended...but things are going to get tight over th

    • As a young engineer I want to thank you (anonymous as you may be) for the work you did in the space industry. If it weren't for you and your coworkers my generation of space enthusiasts wouldn't have the pages and pages of source material, research documentation, and local engineering wisdom to learn from. Folks like you helped fuel the space industry for the last 30 years, and without folks like you, I wouldn't have an industry to work in right now.

      So thank you.

      I hope that one day I'll be able to con
  • I'm just leaving myself to head out to Titusville for the launch. Looking forward to capturing as many pics and videos as I can of the events. Got my handy talky all charged to listen to the rebroadcast on 2 meter.
  • How do we know you are really there? With tech you could easily fake pictures. They could be from anyone.
    Soooo... Take a pic of you standing in front of the countdown clock with today's newspaper.

    Just Joking. Have fun CmdrTaco. I'm rather jealous of you, especially as it is the last one.
    I only got close to flying down there once with a friend. But I'm glad it didn't work out, because it was a cold January day and we lost 7 people that day.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern