2009 - Day 4
Causeway STS-129 launch
1 | Day 2 | Day
3 | Day 4 | Day
5 | Day 5 - Part 2
11/16/200 Day 4: STS-129 Launch
was the big day for the shuttle launch. Sunday was a picture perfect
day, cloudless and 80 degrees. We went to bed with a 90% chance
of favorable weather for the launch Monday. We stocked up on sunscreen,
and even decided to bring a couple towels to place over the back
of our necks, as it was going to be really hot, and we were going
to be sitting out in the open on the narrow causeway for hours
waiting for the launch. STS-129 had a scheduled launch window
of 2:28pm, but we needed to be at the space center at 7:00am.
got tickets in late October to view the shuttle launch from the
NASA Causeway within the NASA property. Only a few thousand tickets
are available and they sell out in about 2-3 minutes. We would
be viewing the launch from a very narrow strip of land about 6
miles from the launch pad. This picture shows the VIP, Press,
and Causeway viewing areas. We are at the star (Jeff's preferred
viewing area). This
web site has great information about how to view a launch.
launch parking pass said we needed to arrive at the Kennedy Space
Center at 7:00am. Unsure of the traffic we would experience on
launch day, we got up at 5:15a, at a quick breakfast and got on
the road a little before 6am. We got some gas, and made it to
the visitor center by 6:30am. There was very little traffic, but
hey, you can never get there to early, only too late.
we got up before dawn, as the sun came up we noticed a low cloud
layer. The current launch weather prediction was for low clouds
that they hoped would burn off, giving only a 70 percent chance
of favorable launch weather. What happened to the sun?!?! By 7am,
it was really cloudy and cool, in the mid 50's. We were dressed
for sunny 80 degrees, and just had white t-shirts and shorts.
It was wind,chilly, and seemed like no way the clouds would burn
decided to take one of the normal tours NASA was running, as buses
to the causeway didn't board until 11:30am. The launch day bus
tours are very abbreviated, and only take you to the Saturn V
building or the International Space Station Center. Fortunately
we hadn't viewed the ISS Center Friday, so we took a bus there.
On the way we got to see a pair of bald eagles that live on the
Kennedy Space Center grounds. I took a few shots through the bus
windows. You can see it is a cloudy morning. The eagle photos
were taken at 8:40am.
saw this water tower on the tour too, nice to see NASA has some
creative people working for them.
ISS Center was actually pretty neat, with full sized mock-ups
of the International Space Station modules. There were also some
models and info on Soyuz and Skylab, the first Russian and American
space stations. We were able to view some of the ISS Modules from
an observation platform and a guide answered all our questions.
The modules we saw were in a semi-clean room. Not clean enough
to require everyone be in bunny suits, but definitely a filtered
cleaned area. The modules were what the guide referred to as "Suitcases"
made by the Italian Space Agency. These suitcases were used to
ferry up supplies, and bring back Space Station waste. dad and
I decided they were actually more like garbage bins. ;)
black containers in this photo fit into the rounded "suitcases".
guide told us that this module had been into space before, and
the blue tape was used to repair micro meteor damage.
viewing the ISS Center we went back to the Kennedy Space Center
Visitor area and killed some time before getting in line for the
bus to the causeway. The weather actually cleared a little, and
the sun even briefly came out. But then low clouds returned, and
by the time we got on our bus to the causeway it looked grim again.
We were given coupons that were "limited" to purchase
an additional launch viewing pass, as once you ride the bus to
the causeway, your pass is used, and you need to spend another
$20 to go again the next day.
has limited buses to take people to the causeway, and the buses
must remain there in case of a launch emergency and the need arises
to bus us civilians back to the visitor center. We needed to remember
our bus number (ours was 23, like Michael Jordan). We made it
out to the causeway relatively quickly and settled into a viewing
area in the second row of people. Dad did a great job and scored
us some plastic chairs to sit in. That made the day much more
bearable. This first shot of the shuttle shows what the day started
as, cool and cloudy. Next you can see the causeway crowd before
launch. I took an infrared image that shows how far away the shuttle
is without a 200mm zoom lens.
That little white spot
is the shuttle
had to wait around 2 and a half hours for the shuttle to launch,
and as we waited, the skies slowly cleared. We saw lots of birds,
and fish were jumping from the water like crazy. There were dolphins
swimming in front of us, and a C130 refueled two blackhawk helicopters
as we waited. The clouds slowly cleared, and with around 9 minutes
until launch the NASA broadcast stated that the weather was "perfect"
so we knew we were a go.
following are a few pictures of the launch I took. I used a Canon
40D, and a 70-200mm F2.8 lens without tripod. The launch pad was
about 6 miles away and I am really impressed with the results.
Click each image for a larger photo.
launch was spectacular, but seemed over in minutes. I took a few
infrared photos, and you can really see the shadow of the exhaust
plum as the sun shines down onto the low cloud bank.
the launch we hung around and took a couple more shots of us at
the viewing area, exchanged some high-fives, and got back on the
bus to the visitor center. A pair of F-15 Eagle jets flew over.
We actually made it back to the hotel by around 5pm, had some
dinner, watched some football and went to bed. It was a really
great day, and we were so lucky to see the launch on our first
always, larger pictures of our full trip to Florida are available
from my Flickr
photo gallery. Day 5 includes our trip to Merritt Island Wildlife