Idle Geeks
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(feature) Super BOWL: Week 2

insane: Natcation 2005: Beginnings and STS-114 Launch

Written by nathan on August 16, 2005


This was the highlight of my entire vacation. We saw Space Shuttle Discovery go up, from only 8 miles away. It was the first space shuttle launch in 2 years, and it might be one of the last. This is our story.

My Aunt Karen and I ended up planning our vacation at exactly the right time. I discovered that the STS-114 space shuttle launch in Florida was delayed until July 26, 2005. I headed to the NASA website, and noticed only one type of ticket that wasn't sold out, so I called Karen and we bought them. I found that we had to be there by 5PM the day before to pick up the tickets, so that meant that we had to leave on Sunday to get there in time.

So we left on Sunday. We stopped at Frisch's Big Boy to get food for the road. This is a tradition and we do it every year. We always get a photo next to the huge "Big Boy" thing.

So we were off. We got out of Kentucky, and got in Tennessee. But, somewhere in Tennessee we hit a snag. There was a wreck on the highway -- 6 miles ahead of us. Traffic was dead stopped for 3 hours straight. People were out of their calls, taking walks and going to the restroom in the woods. Karen and I watched The Day After Tomorrow on my PowerBook.

But it eventually started moving.

We missed 3 hours of driving time, and we had to be at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday by 5PM. So we drove. Until 4AM, which is where we attempted to check in to a Comfort Inn. Chloe, Karen's dog, steadily waited.

But, alas, they do not allow pets. We were directed to a hotel across the street and to ask for the "Manager's Special". We checked in for under $40 and went in. The room smelled of mold and was moist all over. Regardless, my aunt ordered a wake up call for 6AM. The operator was like "What?! You just got here!" Yeah, well..

I noticed some sort of liquid dripping from the plastic-covered lamp shades. It was not coming from the ceiling. I have no idea what was up with that, and neither did my aunt. We got in the beds and noticed that they were moist. Oh well, we went to sleep.

We woke up a few hours later and headed off. Eventually we broke through the Carolinas and Georgia, and got into Florida.

A few more hours of driving, and at around 2:30PM we got to Kennedy Space Center.

We got in the (relatively short) line and got all of our materials, also learning that they were open until 7 on that day. Go figure..

So, we headed west to our hotel in Longwood, FL, which is slightly north of Orlando. It was about an hour drive. The hotel was GREAT! It even had free high-speed internet access (which I took advantage of, duh!).

We even got a poolside room!

Anyway, the next day we got up at 3AM, fueled by adrenaline only, and rushed to get to the Kennedy Space Center by our scheduled arrival time of 6AM. We expected TONS of traffic, so we took the route that I created myself (same one Mapquest suggested). Instead of taking the straight-shot FL-50, we took FL-46, which sacrificed only a few miles. The road was clear. Very clear. Until we got to the causeway, which is only 11 miles away from the complex. This picture was taken at 5:30AM on launch day. This was our first encounter with traffic, right before the causeway.

This lasted for a few minutes. It was just caused by someone checking for valid parking passes, but it might of also been cause by a wreck on the under-passing US-1. Once we got on the causeway it was smooth sailing yet again, right into the visitor complex.

So we got in at about 6:20AM, which was right on time. We hung around the visitor complex, watched the launch preparation on the huge T.V. screen, and ate as well. We found a good place to watch the launch, just outside of the gates, but they kicked us out of there because of legal liabilities (there were gators near apparently). They let us in the field right in front of the Astronaut Memorial. It was good enough.

So, at 10:39 AM STS-114 launched. It was awesome. Try playing this video with your subwoofer all the way up and your volume all the way up (on a 5.1 surround sound system anyway). It will be pretty close to the real thing, soundwise.

After taking the video, I took some stills that turned out good as well.

After the launch, we toured the visitor complex. It's a pretty neat place.

The memorial that we sat in front of - The names light up from the back

The Vehicle Assembly Building close up

One of the Shuttle crawlers

An extremely rare view of the inside of the VAB - they are assembling for the next shuttle launch

The Saturn IV Rocket

The (now empty) launch pad from only 3 miles away

Karen and I in front of a mockup shuttle

I was forced to get in it - so I did

Well, that's it. The next day we visited the Astronaut Hall of Fame, which was pretty neat, but also pretty short. Did I mention that a security guard at KSC commented on my "w00t!" shirt? She said that it was "the best shirt ever", so I told her where to get it.