Friday, July 17, 2009

The Friday Top 5: Top 5 Events of STS-123 Endeavor Launch

This past Wednesday, July 15 Space Shuttle Endeavor was launched on its way to the International Space Station. While I was not fortunate enough to be at the launch, I WAS fortunate enough to attend a launch last year; specifically STS-123 on March 11, 2008. It just so happens that Endeavor was used for STS-123 as well as the mission currently being flown STS-127. So, for today’s Friday Top 5 I thought it would be fun to reminisce on such an awesome experience!

Number 5: The Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

The VAB is, how can I put this?...HUGE! By volume it is the world’s 4th largest building and the largest one-story building in the world! Just for comparisons, each of the stars on the American flag painted on the building is 6 feet across, the blue field is the size of a regulation basketball court, and the stripes are as wide as a standard road lane!!!! The VAB also boasts the largest doors in the world…a record 465 feet tall which take 45 minutes to completely open or close! Since we were touring the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) on launch day they didn’t let us get out much, but here is a picture as we drove towards the VAB on our way to the launch pad!

Number 4: The Space Station Processing Facility

As its name implies, the Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) is where payloads are readied (or, “processed”!) for launch to the International Space Station. The first area of the facility had life-size mock-ups of various modules which you can walk through! The second area was a viewing window into the large white room type area that actually housed the hardware, modules and integration equipment for the International Space Station! Here is a picture of Chris and I in the SSPF! I had a good time reading all the labels in Russian and telling Chris what modules they were before he looked them up on the diagram! Go Russian!

Number 3: The Marshall Space Flight Center Astronaut/STS-123 Party!

Since we were on a tour with employees from the Marshall Space Flight Center we were invited to their pre-launch party…which included some pretty important VIPs, namely David King (the then director of the MSFC) and Tim Kopra. Now at the time Tim was not yet an astronaut, so everyone was kind of bummed that we didn’t get to meet a “real” astronaut”. However, it just so happens that Tim is in space RIGHT NOW on STS-127. In fact, he is going to be staying on the Space Station for a few months! Go Tim…and we got our picture taken with him! (He’s the one in the blue, astronaut suit, not the handsome marine biologist fella on the right!)

Number 2: The Launch Pad on LAUNCH DAY!!!!!!

Wow. This was incredible! Amazing! Miraculous! Mind-blowing! Mind-boggling! Wonderful! A dream come true! We got to be directly across the street from the Space Shuttle Endeavor on LAUNCH DAY! That’s right, we drove past the “public viewing area” which is as far as the public can go on any day, not just launch day…here is the viewing station…

Yup! And we kept going until the view was something like this…

At the risk of sounding like a loser…or maybe just a huge nerd…the moment we stepped off the bus at this location I had tears in my eyes. I had watched so many launches on my little NASA TV internet site and read so many books about space and the space shuttle and have worked so hard to maybe one day be an astronaut…it was just absolutely overwhelming. After gaining my composure, we took some more pictures!

And here is our whole group from Marshall…

Number 1: The Launch (really, did you think it would be anything else?!)

Ok. So now that Chris was completely spaced-out after touring all day and then going to the visitor center and then driving around KSC…it was finally time for the 2:38am launch! Honestly, I had no idea what to think about…this was the only thing going through my mind… “HOLY CRAP I’m going to see the Space Shuttle Launch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And literally the voice inside my head used that many exclamation points! When we got to the viewing area (which is the closest outside viewing area, where the extended families of the astronauts are, hey, maybe some of you will be there someday!) we took a picture by the countdown clock…holding at T-20 minutes.

Finally, it was coming down to the last few minutes and it was exhilarating! The mood was so patriotic, about 3 minutes before liftoff the National Anthem was sung and even the Japanese population supporting the Japanese astronaut on the mission were singing! It was incredible. I decided earlier not to take any pictures during launch because I wanted to view the launch with my own eyes, not through a lens…so the following pictures were taken by our group photographer and every time I see them I am reminded of the power I was lucky enough to witness….enjoy

Here’s to another successful mission on STS-127 Endeavor! God Speed!