Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Arrival.

I'm glad I was able to catch my breath yesterday and get orientated, today things started to Get Serious.

Waiting at the Press Site were at least 2 very hungry Osprey babies. Too bad they couldn't eat the mosquitoes that were feasting on me as I got this photo. I'm still hurting from the chunks they took out of me. .

More media arrived, and the prime activity was hanging out, trading gossip, telling stories, waiting, and trying to scrounge information. In the old days of real journalists shooters could make a decent living taking photographs. Now everyone's got a digital camera and photoshop, they can shoot hundreds of images and odds are they're going to get a decent one out of them, and they can upload them to the internet instantly. There's still room for the artists, but it's a niche market.

Finally the word came: get outside and line up, the STS-134 families and crew will be arriving soon, everyone on the bus.

But first....

I was surprised at the security. These guys were deadly serious. One person reached for their bag before the sweep was done and was very promptly, loudly, and seriously warned to get away from their bag. NOW. When we checked in for our badges we were told that there were no seconds chances, break a rule and lose your badge. Period. No discussion. But when you thought about it, it makes sense. Billions of dollars of hardware, millions of dollars of training. These men are truly "National Assets".

But all that was quickly past and on the way to the Shuttle Landing Facility...

We passed the huge Mate/Demate device where the Shuttle is removed from the 747 SCA (Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, in Nasa-speak). The next time Discovery and Atlantis see this is when they're shipped off to museums. sigh....

Once at the SLF we (everyone) waited....

First came a couple chartered jets with the families, and Rep. Gifford was not on board. I respect privacy so no images of the families will be on here. But they were almost all dressed in cool dark blue shirts that said "Endeavour" in some kind of sparkly material.

While we were waiting veteran astronaut Jerry Ross stopped by to chat. Very gracious man, we talked for a bit about flying airplanes and risk. He was intrigued by a hang gliding story I told and said one of his regrets was that he wanted to do it but did not feel comfortable with the risk/reward. He told me about his one and only time trying downhill skiing in return. We both agreed that we've lived charmed lives, and that was enough reward.

The howl of T-38s overhead announced the astronauts arrival.

After passing overhead they flew over the Cape and Endeavour, then landed and taxied in for a few remarks.

Scott Kelly was there to greet his brother Mark

and even other astronauts wanted pictures.

Let's wave to our families

And thank everyone at KSC for getting Endeavour ready for flight.

By the way, the security never let up.

The crew of STS-134.

Bedtime. Tomorrow is a day I've been looking forward to ever since I was approved for my pass. We get to see Pad 39B, which is being taken apart. It was to be rebuilt for the Ares I and V rockets but with their cancellation it's future is now unknown. We also get to see the SLF a bit better, then..... an upclose tour of Space Shuttle Discovery, which is being "safed" before she's shipped off to the Air & Space Museum at Dulles.

One last image. I don't care who you are or in what paint scheme you put it in, the T-38 is just a sexy airplane.

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