As part of the publicity program at NASA, I was invited to the #NASATweetup through Twitter to watch the last landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. I had signed up to watch the launch along with fifty-one hundred other people. A hundred and fifty people were accepted and another hundred and fifty people were put on a wait list. I was put on the wait list and never called.
NASA invited fifty people from the wait list to come to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) and watch the final landing of the last of the three space shuttles. So, a train, plane, and automobile trip later, I was in Cocoa Beach.
I met up with two other tweeters for dinner at the Shark Pit where I had a couple of the local brew so I could get to sleep for four hours from what on the west coast was 7:30 pm to 11:30 pm. I felt like I was in college again, sleeping before going out to a party.
I was out the door by 3 am on east coast time and was bombarded by humidity. It is amazing how much I forget about that after spending eight years in California. It didn’t help that I was wearing jeans and a light sweater because we would be standing on grass in the nature preserve that is KSC.
My dinner companions became my carpool companions, and we headed out to the Press Accreditation Building just before KSC. There, we had to hand over our two forms of identification to receive our passes. By 4 am, we were on the bus and ready to go.
We had to wait for deorbit before we were allowed to drive to the landing site. The wait felt like an eternity, but wasn’t really all that long. In the end, it was for the best because it meant we spent less time getting eaten alive by the bugs. Silent little devils got my ear without me noticing!
We arrived about fifteen minutes before landing. I managed to sneak my way up to the front of the rope. We were warned that it would be pointless to try to take photos. Turns out that is true. But I attempted to take some anyways. Problem was that I didn’t have a tripod, and I’m not particularly steady. I tried a couple before the landing and realized it wasn’t worth it. The sky was brighter fifteen minutes after the landing, but was dark for the landing itself.
The most noticeable moments of the landing are the two distinct sonic booms that happen as the wings and the tail of the shuttle pass the sound barrier. You will notice in the video that even though I knew it was coming, it still surprised me. The other moment is just as the shuttle lands, there is a loud roar.
Since there don’t seem to be any lights on the shuttle, it was impossible to see it land. The only time we could actually see the shuttle was as it passed briefly with the parachutes deployed. In the video, I forget to turn my phone to follow it because I was actually watching it in real life, not through the screen.
After the landing, there are a bunch of trucks that all rush out to the shuttle, which by then was behind the trees again. There isn’t really much more we could see, so the whole experience was less than thirty minutes.
Was it worth it for thirty minutes? How many of you can say you saw a shuttle land? Or the last space shuttle landing?
So yeah, it was worth it.
I took a few more photos before leaving. Now I’m going to take a nap before exploring Cocoa Beach.