We arrived at “the hill” – a spot on the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base side – to shoot some photos of Atlantis at about 1:30 on July 8 (launch day). Initially delayed due to weather, the Rotating Service Structure at KSC Launch Complex 39A had started back at 14:38 hrs (for those who have never seen the rollback, a great time-lapse of the feed provided by NASA TV can be accessed here.) The decision to tank had been made earlier in the evening, and sure enough the weather was clearing.
It turned out the mosquitos at earlier receptions prior to launch were small fry. We were besieged. I’d brought repellant and used it on myself and my colleagues. That drove the cowardly (or less hungry) away, but I’m convinced it just made the more aggressive ones mad. They bit through our clothes, driving Madi back into the car in short order. Laura stayed out longer, and I stayed longest, making me the dumbest of us, the slowest, or the most determined. Likely all three.
We stayed up there for about an hour, following @NASA Twitterfeed to stay on top of events at the pad. Sure enough, the countdown continued to progress smoothly. In spite of the mosquitos, I lingered until the last possible minute. I wanted to hold back the dawn, slow time to a crawl, make every second pass like minutes from that moment until launch. Unable to defy the laws of time and space, I settled for burning the image into memory and silicon as best I could.
We finished up around 2:15, making a quick getaway along the dark gravel road JUST as security was coming to clear the area for tanking. We tried to get over to visit our friends at the press site, but by that time it too was closed except for authorized folks (meaning, in that case, a press pass). We turned around and headed back to the hotel, arriving around 3:00.
The trick for amateurs such as myself is to take many photos in the hopes that one or two might turn out well. The third is my favorite, but I’ll let you be the judge.
Welcome STS-135 Crew in Houston
JSC Special: Celebrate the STS-135 Crew’s Homecoming Friday, July 22!
If you missed the launch, you don’t have to miss the crew!
You’re invited to Ellington Field Hangar 990 on Friday, July 22, at 4 p.m. to honor Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and Mission Specialists Rex Walheim and Sandy Magnus at the STS-135 Crew Return Ceremony.
Along with JSC Director Mike Coats, family, friends, colleagues and public guests are invited to wish the Atlantis crew well as they return from a successful mission in space. Gates to Ellington Field will open at 3:30 p.m.
Please note: Crew return is open to the public; no JSC badge is needed.
Also note, the hangar is not air-conditioned. Water is provided, but dress accordingly.
UPDATE: The Space Review has just published the paper with the new introduction.
“A major issue of contention for NASA’s near-term plans has been how much reliance it should place on commercial providers for crew transportation to low Earth orbit. Mary Lynne Dittmar presents a paper she prepared last year with the late Mike Lounge on one approach to handle that transition.”
Readers of this blog have seen references to a white paper written by Mike Lounge and I. Before tonight it has not been publicly available. Now it is.
The original Lounge~Dittmar paper, “Transition to Commercial Services for LEO Transportation”, was written in the Spring and early Summer of 2010. Distribution was on a “not for release” basis, with the intent of supporting policy discussions without generating more controversy in an already-contentious time. In December of that year, the paper surfaced at NASASpaceflight.com (NSF). NSF’s editor-in-chief & sitemaster, Chris Bergin, was the ultimate professional in his handling of the paper, suggesting at the time that it be released only in the non-public (subscription) portion of the site. Chris was also kind enough to remove my personal contact information, which I had included when the paper was originally distributed.
Readers of this blog (and many others) are aware that Mike Lounge passed on during March of this year. At that time, I began to explore the viability of publishing the entire paper in a public venue – in part to keep a promise to Mike, and in part with the hope that it might continue to inform discussion even though the thoughts that spurred it originated almost a year earlier. (For background on the paper and on Mike, the 4-part series I wrote about our work together begins here.)
Several weeks ago I started on an update, including an introduction to the paper describing its genesis. At the same time I reached out to Jeff Foust, publisher and editor of The Space Review. Jeff has reviewed the updated paper and has kindly agreed to publish it tomorrow, May 23, 2011. That version contains new information that previously has not been published.
In keeping with his professionalism and support, tonight Chris Bergin has moved the original paper from behind the “L2″ firewall to the open (public) “Space Policy” thread at NSF in order to make it available to anyone wishing to read it. It may be found here.
My thanks to Jeff and to Chris for their support and consideration.