After the receptions I returned to the room and prepped for the next part of the evening – a trip to a camera mount on the CCAFS side, across the way from the pad. The location of the site was provided by Madi Sengupta. Laura Sarmiento joined in. Madi, who apparently has a KSC GPS in her head, drove the car up, down and around, finally taking us down a dark and muddy gravel road with no markings to speak of.
We arrived at “the hill” 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 the earlier SpaceX reception 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.