For the sake of those that live in Central Florida or want to live in Central Florida, I am now going to take you on a virtual simulated tour of what it is like to go view an actual Shuttle Launch.
Let’s get started. I live in a small town 26 miles west of Orlando. Here are the facts that I need to make each of you aware of prior to you jumping into the Kar simulator for your trip to see the Shuttle Launch.
1. The trip will be a 65 mile journey that should take 1 hour 20 minutes.
2. The Launch of the Shuttle Endeavor is scheduled for a 2:28 AM lift-off
3. My wingman on this journey we will give him the call sign “Big Dipper”
4. Weather report lists the launch at 95% chance of a launch. Temps will be in the 50’s
5. The closest view “Big Dipper” or I have ever had is about 15 miles from KSC
6. TV stations are reporting if you arrive before 9 pm you have a chance to get into KSC
7. KSC = Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center
8. BAWB is hungry
9. Too many facts screw up a virtual simulation.
10. I am tired. ( I listed this one because I wanted to have ten facts )
After much discussion wingman “Big Dipper” and I have programmed the simulation to start at 7 pm. We have stocked the kar with several bottles of water for our trip. We will be stopping for incredible sandwiches at our favorite sub shop to take on the ride. Our plan is to buy two subs so we have a food resource now and for our return trip early in the morning.
All goes according to plan on our travels to KSC except for the plastic bucket that jumped out in front of the kar ( nothing happened My fast reflexes that I have developed driving KART KAM kept us safe) I threw that in just to mention Kart KAM which will not be mentioned again in the simulation.
I also would like to thank the Florida Highway Department for scheduling road construction that takes three lanes of traffic down to one during a time period way to early in the evening. This set us back 20 minutes on our time line of 1 hour 18 minutes drive time. I mention this for those that want to view a future shuttle launch to allow twice the time that Map Quest tells you because you never know how much traffic you will run into.
Once past the traffic it was really clear sailing out to KSC. On a normal shuttle launch traffic is pretty slow for the journey. We sailed though in just about 1 hour and 35 minutes. Yes I made up some time after the traffic jam.
Not knowing how things worked yet we figured we would park in the parking lot as near to the back as possible. (This is the Shuttle/parade theme park viewing theory I speak about way to often in front of Kevin)
Ok you knew I would spell it out for those new to the podcasts. My theory is if you are in a parking lot and you want to see the shuttle launch to its full potential you go as far away from the buildings in the parking lot thus giving you the maximum viewing time possible for your location. Ask Kevin about the parade viewing part of this theory.
Now here is where it gets pretty cool. On a launch day the KSC visitor center is open from 9 am till the Shuttle launches. So for this launch the KSC visitor center was open 9 AM March 10 till 4 am March 11, 2008. Pricing to get in for the night was $40.25 per adult.
Time to do that pre-flight message like the one they show before Soaring. Please be aware that this is a restricted area you are entering. Things like knives, guns, sharp objects or any other stupid objects are not allowed in the Visitor center. You will be entering through a security metal detector and checked for any of the above listed items. You also will be required to turn on each and every electronic item you bring in with you. So in other words if there are things you can leave in the car do that. Of course I had 4 cameras, two cell phones and more coins and metal objects than you could shake a stick at, so it took some time to get through security. You will never hear me complain about any security measures that are taken. It is my safety that they are looking out for. I mention this so if you do visit you will be a little better prepared. Another thing not allowed is coolers. So leave those in the car like we did with the now famous late night sandwiches we bought earlier.
Just a note on what we found out regarding the tickets. If you go to the guest relation area, you can pay an additional $12.00 and convert your one day pass into an annual pass for a year. That is a great deal if you are a Rocket Man like I am. Big Dipper and I both upgraded the tickets.
As we took in the lay of the land scoping out where the best place to view the launch, we noticed they set up a jumbotron TV screen over in the Rocket Garden for people to see what is going on during the launch. I consulted my wingman and we decided that for a day launch that this area might be the best area to claim squatter’s rights to. But with the bright light of the screen this would not be the best place to claim our little piece of real estate for this evening.
Let’s take a look at what is most important to us this evening on picking a spot
-The best view possible for this special night launch
-The area that has the lowest lighting that will not ruin our photos
-An area that has easy access to a BATHROOM
-HEAT that means a gift shop to go in and warm up.
-A place to sit.</li>
-Did I mention easy access to a BATHROOM
Well we found the perfect spot which is out behind the Shuttle and external tank, in an area to the left of the new Shuttle Launch experience. This area had it all for us, with my most important feature the BATHROOMS that were close.
We set up our tripods against the fence at the point that we were told is just 6 miles from the launch pad and gives us that perfect unobstructed view of the launch. We are now the closest we have ever been to a Shuttle Launch. You could sense the excitement from my wingman “Big Dipper”. We have claimed our little space of property and we are very happy. We sit on the cement wall and mention to another group this looks like a good spot. Where they say to us,“Did you know that there is a big Jumbotron TV way over on the other side of the property” I look at my wingman and say maybe that would be better. He replies “No there is to much light over there” We turn back to the group and say “No I think this is a better spot” We then sit down and look at our watches. It is now 9:28 pm. And we have exactly 5 hours to the launch. It is at this point my wingman and I look at each other and realize.
5 HOURS IS A LONG TIME AND WHAT THE HECK ARE WE GOING TO DO FOR THAT MUCH TIME!!!!!!
This is now the time we will offer suggestions on what you can do to pass the time.
The first game we found to play is one that our group beside us from the UK taught us as we were trying to decide if this was the best spot to view the launch. Another group came by and were overheard talking about if this was the best place to view the launch. The group from the UK once again pointed out the area on the opposite side of the complex as the best area. Hearing this, the other group discussed this and thanked the group from the UK and off they went. The people from the UK speak up after they leave and says that worked again and they laughed. We now had been shown the rules of this game. Send as many people to the opposite side of the attraction and leave us alone in the best area. We joined in and sent many people away from our little Shangri-La.
Staying warm this was very important to us. I actually had to buy one of those stupid knit hats that pull down over your ears. This game would have been much easier if we had thought to bring a blanket and gloves. We did bring warm jackets and sweatshirts but a little more advanced work would have been good. Please note we will now discuss what we like to refer the incident as the VERY LIGHT WEIGHT RED DRESS WITH HIGH HEELS GIRL Incident. How can anyone in their right mind dress like this for a 2:28 am outdoor event. What was she THINKING!!
A game we spent a lot of time doing is called. NAME ALL THE THINGS WE FORGOT TO BRING with us. We came up with several. Such as a Blanket, neat folding chair that comes in a carry bag that we could have used to carry the tripods, a deck of cards and a cribbage board, a portable DVD player to watch a movie or two, or anything else that would have helped pass the 5 HOURS we had to wait. This was not my favorite game.
Another game we played is YOU THINK YOU CAN SIT RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME YOU GOT ANOTHER THING COMING FRIEND GAME. It gave us a chance to welcome new people to the area and point to the other area everyone else was directed to. This game requires great people skills. You must smile and appear very friendly when playing this particular game. Other tools you have for this game is to point to your watch and remind the person that you did not see anyone in front of you when you arrived for the 5 hour wait. You also have other weapons that you can use here. The visual aide of showing the person the picture you took when you got there does not show the person trying to sit in front of you anywhere in the scene.
The remember me game is one we played every so often during the night. What is involved is you must go over to your tripod and appear to adjust it for a minute. This is done to remind the people sitting behind your tripod, HI THERE remember me I am the one that will be standing in front of you at 2:28 am that has been here 3 minutes before you arrived earlier in the evening. I am sitting on the wall behind you but right now I am reminding you that you will be required to stand up if you have any chance of seeing this launch tonight.
A game several of us liked to do is when someone from another group would ask someone in their group if anyone wanted something we would say yes a Hot Chocolate. The problem with this game was we never did get the hot chocolate.
There were many more games that we played but time is at a premium on this night. Let’s look at the countdown clock.
It is now 4 hours till the launch, all those games played and we still have 4 hours to go.
OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO!!!!!!!!
I just wanted to bring the point a little clearer to you letting you know there are sacrifices you make to see a launch. You may ask me was the wait worth it. I do not hesitate answering a resounding YES!!! It is worth every second to see this happen.
Just a note if you are in a group of more than two people you appoint one person the site manager that also responds to matters of security for your appointed land that was staked out. This allows members of the family to go off and tour the park while going through some of the exhibits and I-MAX movies.
Time is getting closer. We can see the jet that mimics the shuttle landing on the runway the shuttle uses. He is testing the conditions and will do that till just before the launch .if they need to come back to land in an emergency.
We will fast forward now to the last 45 minutes prior to the launch because it is what you call as interesting as watching paint dry, sitting in the dark of night trying to stay warm.
T minus 45 minutes and counting, I just love hearing them give count down times. So here we are, your virtual shuttle launch is just 45 minutes away. Let’s look around the immediate area to get an idea of things going on.
First many of the people laying claim to space have now laid down for a nap on their blankets. I am starting to hate these people that had the wisdom to bring such a piece of equipment with them. Damn you all!! A thought raced through my mind, maybe they will sleep through the launch on their nice warm blanket. HA!!!!!!! That would teach them. Ok don’t forget it has been 4 Hours and 15 minutes!! The dark side is definitely calling to me now. LUKE TURN TO THE DARK SIDE!! These thoughts are running through my head now. I also begin thinking of the upcoming Star Wars week-ends that are just around the corner. OK FOLKS remember 5 HOURS sitting and I need to entertain myself. I also wanted to plug my Send BAWB to the park Star wars video available to view on You tube.
Look the jet that mimics the shuttle landing on the runway the shuttle uses is back testing the runway. OK did any of you just see that fog the plane went through? My wingman “Big Dipper” has the look of anguish on his face. We look at each other and blurt out at the same time FOG!!!!!!!!!!! Your virtual simulation has just thrown you a FOG alert. What does this mean to us that have sat for close to 4 ½ hours. That can’t be!!!A quick check of the count down clock calms us. Ok the clock is still ticking down to the appointed time. PHEY!!! That was close.
Now things start moving rather quickly from this point so Buckle Up. In the next ten minutes a new breed of person starts coming into the area. We will refer to them from this point as “ The CHAIRS from the Restaurant carrying people”. They have started arriving in droves and are dragging chairs from the restaurant that is not even close to our position. These people have also dragged the “PEOPLE THAT STAND IN FRONT OF YOU AT A DISNEY PARADE” with them. My wingman “Big Dipper” is now preparing his camera settings and by doing so for so long has run the battery down a bit. We hurry to get the cameras in the right setting and decide that if these CHAIR PEOPLE and DISNEY PARADE PEOPLE are invading we need to move to our Tripod positions and again remind those behind us that we are the ones that arrived 3 minutes before them so many hours ago.
We settle into our positions and felt comfortable in our location. What’s that Big Dipper? We are being outflanked by a new type of person. We will be calling them “ I DON”T CARE HOW LONG YOU HAVE BEEN HERE PEOPLE” OH this is a nasty breed we are dealing with here. We see them inching their way to try and get in front of us and My wingman “Big Dipper” says RUN FOR IT!! I grab the tripod and move forward into the pine bark area up next to the fence. I really didn’t run it was like three feet. The “ I DON”T CARE HOW LONG YOU HAVE BEEN HERE PEOPLE” look startled. Sorry Luke I may have seen the dark side tonight.
OK t minus 5 minutes and I have now decided that 4 cameras is not going to work. I am down to 2, one to video the event and the other my Canon Rebel IT. Checked the settings and all of a sudden I said to the “ I DON”T CARE HOW LONG YOU HAVE BEEN HERE PEOPLE” , what setting are you going to use for the launch on your camera. Well that threw them into a panic. They looked at each other and all you could see is a blank stare. OH what pleasure you get from this having remembered the long 4 hour and 55 minute wait. That was when we played the What settings are you going to use game. Remember 5 hours it helped past the time. I digress back to the panic looks. HEHEHE!! I am asked what setting I am using and I said daylight. He said but it is dark out. Oh you stranded little person. I remind him that in three minutes it is going to be very bright and not dark. I turned away from him and went back to making last minute adjustments while “ I DON”T CARE HOW LONG YOU HAVE BEEN HERE PEOPLE” panic.
T minus 1 minute is announced over the speakers. Time to start the video on the tripod,. Focus is set camera is rolling. I snap a few time exposure pictures on the Canon and wait. The announcement starts 10-9-8-7-6-5- ignition of main engines -4-3-2-1 LIFT OFF OF THE STS-123 ENDEAVOUR SHUTTLE. At the count of t-minus 3 the sky lit up like it was daytime. It was SO WORTH THE WAIT!!!!!!!! The shuttle roars off the launch pad and shoots right into that FOG CLOUD COVER just above the launch pad. NEVER TO BE SEEN BY ANYONE ON THE GROUND AGAIN. The crowd is yelling and screaming for Joy and then they realize that HEY WE WAITED 5 HOURS ( some of them less like CHAIR PEOPLE and “ I DON”T CARE HOW LONG YOU HAVE BEEN HERE PEOPLE” Where is the shuttle?
The crowd went wild with the launch, there wass clapping and cheering going on and then there was this one guy that had to whistle that bugged the heck out of me. Well we realized we would not see anything else tonight. The announcer is still giving announcements to how the shuttle is doing. By the time we had packed up and gone to the bathroom we were told the shuttle was hundreds of miles away from us. All in a matter of minutes. By the time we ggot back to the car the shuttle was half way around the world. How crazy is that.
Not to bore you any longer the rest of the morning involved bumper to bumber traffic for 15 miles. We decided to eat our sandwiches and not worry about the return trip. Some people just went back to their cars and waited for the traffic to lighten up. Travel time back to my house was over three hours, but my Wingman and I both agreed we did not think it was a waste of our time and it will be something we will never forget.
You can view the launch by following the link below.
Look for the Shuttle launch you tube video on that page.
Thats the end of your simulation of the Shuttle launch. You may now return to your favorite program.
A special thanks to my Wingman Big Dipper for coming to the launch with me. We really did have a great time.