Friday, March 14, 2008

Space Shuttle Endeavor Ready for Launch

Space Shuttle Endeavor Launch March 11, 2008Okay the COOLEST thing happened while we were here in Florida this week. Yes, it justifies my use of all caps and yes, I still use the word "cool" it's just who I am--a child of the 80s (that and I can't bring myself to say "bomb" or "dope" instead).

We visited Kennedy Space Center last Saturday which is something I've always thought would be fun to do. Maybe it's because I grew up with America's space program--I vividly remember the first space shuttle launch then later sitting in English class glued to the television watching the Challenger explode. So regardless of their whines Andrew and I dragged our less-enthusiastic children over to Cape Canaveral (or as we lovingly refer to it, Cape Evel Canaveral--an hour in the car can be a LONG time with four children and we get our kicks where we can) to get them a bit of cultural heritage.

As I waited for Andrew to park the car I spoke with a guard who told me it was a bit busier that day due to the impending launch. THE LAUNCH?? What launch? There's going to be a launch? When? Where? OH MY GOODNESS! Yes, she thought she'd found her nut for the day I'm sure ("Uh, Bob, can you get Security over here? We've got another Class Four Space Freak here . . . ") I can assure you the only thing more exciting than a shuttle launch would be getting to ride in the shuttle with the entire cast of Star Wars. Yes, that freak flag of mine is waving proudly.

I hadn't even bothered checking launch times during our travel plans because really now, what are the odds? Apparently better than average because sure enough the launch was scheduled for Tuesday morning--our last day in Orlando--at 2:28am. Who cares what time, we would be there. She warned us that night launches are particularly spectacular and we heard her words but were so excited we didn't really pay much attention.

David, Lily and Spencer at Mission ControlAnyway, KSC was a fun tour. There is a new ride/exhibit that simulates a space shuttle launch where you tilt back like the astronauts do while waiting for take off and you get the roar and the rumblings and the "twang" (no, not Tang, we're talking the slight wavering shift of the shuttle just before ignition).

While you're waiting for your turn in the simulator there are video screens where you see clips from various astronauts speaking about what they had felt during launch. Really, it was some-thing! I was riveted and couldn't help thinking how normal they all looked, you'd never pick any of them out of a crowd but here they'd been to space. To space, people! What struck me was one man describing his view of the earth from orbit and commenting that he wanted to look away at first, feeling as if he was seeing something that was reserved for God's eyes only. I admit I teared up a bit.

Anyway, the simulator was great and after all the talk about what to expect during launch I was ready to see the real thing. Monday night at 10 pm we stole the blankets and pillows from our hotel room and packed everyone into the minivan and drove up to the Cape. We found a good spot along the beach in Titusville where we had a straight view of the launch pad from across the river--probably ten miles away--and put everyone to sleep in the car to wait until 2 am for the action. The closest you can get is six miles from the launch pad. They say that at 40 feet from launch the heat will kill you, at 400 feet the sound will kill you and at 4000 feet the alligators who don't like the rumblings will grumpily kill you out of spite for being disturbed in their beauty sleep.

David, Spencer and Lillian at Kennedy Space CenterWhen the kids woke up they were pretty grumpy themselves. Spencer wanted to know if anyone would mind if he used the nearby bushes for his personal bathroom issues (I assured him that would not win him any points with the locals and would assure Death Most Painful). The place was swarming, I mean SWARMING with people, there were thousands wandering around the beach and onto the docks and all along the streets, you'd have never believed it was 2 am.

You could see the launch pad all lit up and at 2:28 exactly the engines ignited. The guard at NASA had told us it would be like a fast sunrise and that's what it was, a ball as big as the sun launching into the sky lighting up the world like it was dawn. Straight up and into the clouds hovering above.

But after it disappeared into the clouds the crowds around us went silent. You see, the launch is far enough away that you see it before you hear it because sound travels so much slower than light. After the shuttle disappeared the ground slowly began to rumble, growing into a quaking grumble and roar as the sound waves finally reached us and the crowd was completely silent as we listened to the ghostly sounds of the shuttle that had already disappeared into the clouds above. Thirty seconds, forty seconds, maybe a minute it growled and groaned and the crowd held its breath until all was silent again. Then we cheered.

You can see for yourself below, but I'd recommend listening to it with headphones on. The regular speakers don't pick up the sound well but you can hear it if you use headphones.



By the way, there are only 10 more launches of the space shuttle before the fleet is retired and this piece of history is gone. I can't believe we got to see it.

Oh and a final note: here's a clip of me in the G-force simulator (which is worth watching just for Andrew's endearingly goofy commentary). They strap you in, crank up the engine and you get four G's over the course of a few minutes. It simulates a ride in an F-15 fighter jet and though you're traveling sideways you feel as if you're going forward. I'm normally pretty steady with those kinds of things but when the ship did a simulated roll I quickity split grabbed for my little paper bag and got ready to shamelessly hurl my cookies. I came out stumbling and pretty nauseous but what a great ride!

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42 comments:

Proverbs31 said...

That IS cool!
And I still say "cool," too. So we can be so very "not-dope" but "cool" together. I'm sure we aren't the only ones!

Cocoa said...

What an awesome experience. I really want to take my kids there someday. Thanks for sharing the video with us!

L the D said...

Haha, at least you didn't openly admit to a love of Star TREK.

I once saw a Delta launch, I think in 2004. It was a pretty cool experience, and I'm glad you and your kids got a chance to observe our great space program in action!

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Fantastic footage! You weren't kidding about the fast sunrise effect. And I love how quiet everyone was during the rumbling. You are so lucky. Thanks for sharing.

Daisy said...

Oh, my husband would be SO jealous!

Heather said...

That's sooooo cool! (What other word would describe it?)

What fantastic luck.

mj said...

Very cool! I've been to the space center once and really want to take the kids. The launch would be an amazing experience--my kids would love it (so would my husband and I)!

Lucy van Pelt said...

That was seriously COOL, and I mean it. I'm quite jealous and just can't believe your luck.

SabineM said...

Fabulous video! WOW! What an amazing sight!
I live close enough to where the shuttle sometimes lands here in Ca and when I was younger, we would often jump in the car and go see a landing. It was exciting, but not as beautiful as this!
Hope you are enjoying your vacation. I just got back from mine! They go too fast!

Lilibeth said...

Now that is an experience your family will never forget. I've never been to Florida, nor seen the fast sunrise, but now I know what it looks like. Thanks. I loved the little voice, "Have a nice time in space." and the older, wiser sibling's caution...so typical of family situations.

Jacki said...

Okay, officially jealous. I would love to see a shuttle launch in person, as I always dreamed of being an astronaut.

And I got dizzy just watching the video of the G-Force simulator.

Thanks for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

You mentioned tomato plants.
Please, madam, what size are your pots and what tomato varieties are you growing?

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

ok I am now forever jealous, green with envy for reasons now that doesn't include living in the final frontier.

The Source said...

That's AWESOME! We're sending one of our boys to Space Camp in Huntsville this summer. Maybe he'll grow up to work for NASA. Glad your family had a good trip!

Kelly @ Love Well said...

You are the coolest of cool.

My husband saw the shuttle launch from the roof of his office building the year he worked in Florida. I was insanely jealous.

I hope the astronauts truly have a fun time in Spain. ;-)

Face Clues said...

I bet that G-force ride was wild! I think I would have for sure tossed my cookies.

Hey, I'm looking for participants to partake in my Face Clues experiment. I hope you come by!

nutmeg said...

Okay, he really is endearingly goofy. My kind of guy!

Christie O. said...

oh i am envious!! we live on the west coast of florida and we can see it from here if there are no clouds, but we have to get out there in person before the last launch! awesome that you got to see it!

Sarah said...

People don't say "cool" anymore? Man, I'm getting older.

Stephanie said...

Tim's parents took Kellen to the space center a few years ago. He loved it! I'm sure he would be as green with envy as his dad!

Babystepper said...

Infinitely cooler than Disney World!

Motherhood for Dummies said...

Okay I just loves David's comments in the back ground...HAVE A NICE TIME IN SPAIN!

lamarguerite said...

Cool! I have never been to a space launch, but you made me feel as if I was there.

Where I went with your story: our next space adventure is taking place right now. Al Gore is calling our kids the hero generation. They can be the ones taking the courageous steps to stop global warming. And as moms, we can help steer them in the right direction, through our example.

http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com

Melissa Lea said...

I am soooo jealous of you! I am a space freak and would have loved to be in your shoes!!! I guess watching on tv will have to do!! Thanks for sharing!!

cndymkr / jean said...

My son has been studying the space program this year. He wanted to stay up and watch the launch on TV but I made him go to bed. (bad mom of the year - again) Your kids will always remember this trip. Thanks for sharing it. The time delay from seeing it to hearing it was the oddest thing. Wow.

sogratefultobemormon.wordpress.com said...

i will always still say COOL and GROOVY. thems are my words mama. he he. i had no idea DOPE was supposed to mean something COOL now.

i loved hearing your andrew's commentary ... look folks, michelle has been in there for 25 minutes now!!!! ha.

he's a handful i bet.

and i was amused how it looks almost like your boy was YAWNING in the head photo! ha ha

great day girlie,
kathleen :) xo

My Ice Cream Diary said...

Just wanted to say that I shared with the family last night over cake and they were all very impressed and made me play it several times. It led to a great discussion about light speed and sound speed. Thanks again!

Vicki said...

I'm another huge fan of the space program...I have been all of my life. Luckily, I now live within an hour of Cape Canaveral, and DH and I are annual pass holders...we practically live over there. We spent the night at KSC for the launch on Monday night, too. We're also able to step out our front door and watch each launch.

I was right with you in this post - picturing everything you did!

Damselfly said...

You're so lucky! We've tried to time a visit with launches, but they always seemed to get delayed.... My husband, who works on the top floor of his office building, claims he's seen some launches even though we're a hundred miles away. (They look like a speck, though....) Love the video!

luckyzmom said...

What great timing! When my husband was in the Air Force I simulated bombing NY city and later when he was flying f111's I actually had a taxi ride in one of them. Fun ride.

chelle said...

Wow that is amazing!

Vaughanville said...

What a fabulous memory you've made for yourselves! They scrubbed the launch we were to see on our last trip to FL.

I didn't realize the program was being retired!

Love your blog!

Michele

Caffienated Cowgirl said...

Oh, I am jealous! What a treat for you...

Katherine said...

How COOL! We spent a day at the Space Center a few years ago, but there were no launches scheduled anytime around then. I'd love to see one!

Janet said...

Way to go on that timing! Probably if you planned it it wouldnt' have happened. I'm very impressed you rode the G-force simulator. I've always been afraid of getting sick. Or someone else getting sick (which means I will too).

Hotomom said...

This is the coolest thing. That's something off of people's life lists. I bet it was an incredible experience. Great video too.

molly said...

I do believe you got a good shot of that blast off. There is a braud audience that would be interested in your video. We need to get it circulated.

Michelle A. said...

I knew there was something I was missing! What a wonderful post and what a wonderful trip Michelle! I'm so excited for you that you were able to experience this - It's one of those things you just have to do in a lifetime! Your flight simulator hurling in circles (notice I used the word hurling) would have me doing just that for weeks. You're a brave woman!

Anonymous said...

I happened to find your blog when I googled Endeavor -- we too happened to be blessed to be in Florida and decided to go to the launch. And it truly was COOL -- it was breathtaking! What also is so cool is that you took your video from just about where we were standing in Titusville, so when I found this post, I could show my family the launch, too!

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

That must be some kind of an experience to actually see an actual launch at Kennedy Space Center. Must have been that one thrill of a lifetime. Very intersting ideed. Thanks for the wonderful post. God bless you all.

allrileyedup said...

I saw the Space Shuttle Atlantis do a nighttime launch years ago and it still remains fresh in my memory as completely mind-blowing. Seriously, one of my top ten memories. Ever. The way everything lights up around you is simply incredible. Great that you caught it on video. All I have are two photos -- that everyone mistakes for being of the sun.

Tamara said...

My husband would have LOVED that. He totally wanted to be an aeronautical engineer.

I saw this on the internet today, and thought your crew might be interested in the pictures of the shuttle being assembled & loaded: http://bmwsporttouring.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php?Cat=0&Board=UBB11&Number=1016238&page=0&fpart=all