Dave Noderer's Blog

March 2008 Entries

STS-123 Launch...

About 1 1/2 years ago I emailed a request to one of my senator's in Florida, Bill Nelson - D, for a pass to  watch a shuttle launch. I got a fairly quick response, they had received the request but that the next flight was already booked. I would be on the wait list...

Fast forward to Feb 2008 and I got a call to see if I was interested in the Mar 11 (planned) STS-123 launch... Yeah!!

The launch is scheduled at 2:30 am which may be why I bubbled to the top of the list.

I got a written inviation from NASA and eventually detailed information on what to do.

This invitation is for the Banana Creek VIP Viewing area, where the countdown clock is, near the launch center and 3.3 miles from the launch pad.

One bad thing is I cannot take my laptop there so no real time reporting!

Report:

It was really great, this veiwing area is adjacent to the Saturn V visitors center with bleachers for  a couple hundred.

There is a grassy area in front of the bleachers and that is where I sat/stood on the grass next to the 3' high fence. You could see the Vehicle Assembly Building to the right and the pad straight ahead. The launch was awesome, the only thing wrong was that there was a fairly low cloud ceiling, we figured about 10000 ft so the shuttle promptly dissapeared after laucnh.

This area is where the astronaut families watch from too (i'm 90% sure on this point) but they had a section of bleachers roped off at one end.

The visitors center was open for business and there were a number of conssessions.

I met a lot of really great people including a college engineering professor from New Orleans and his wife and college age son. As we were all professional nerds, the time went by fast talking about the shuttle, amps, robots and software. It turns out the son had done a summer internship a Michoud and worked on the pesky Engine Cutoff Sensors.

A big thanks to my Senator, Bill Nelson for making the trip possible!!

Photos: http://noderer.spaces.live.com/photos/cns!E8348157304BCE63!346/

The camera could just not deal with the initial launch brightness but there is a great picture of the plume after the shuttle has gone through the clouds.

In one of the most inventive moves I've ever witnessed, they had an annoucment before the launch that the solid rocket exhaust plume filled with Hydrocloric Acid would take 25 min to reach the viewing area so everyone should move quickly to the busses!