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ASF EXP 1 A
ASF EXP 1 B
ASF EXP 1 C
Cocoa Beach
121 Scrub #1
121 Scrub #2
STS-121
ASF EXP 2 A
ASF EXP 2 B
ASF EXP 2 C
ASF EXP 2 D
ASF EXP 2 E
STS-116

STS-121

 "The Rocket's Red Glare" My photographs was from the launch of STS-121.   Photo Credits: Mine
Lexie, Mary, Wayland, and Buzz in the Banana Creek grandstands
Lexie, Mary, Wayland, and Buzz in the Banana Creek grandstands on launch day
A security helicopter makes a sweep
Security makes a sweep of the area
Spectators line the fence at Banana Creek
Spectators line the fence at Banana Creek with Launch Complexes 39B and 39A in the distance
Liftoff of Discovery on STS-118.
Liftoff of STS-121
Discovery comes into view from behind the RSS.
Discovery comes into view from behind  the RSS on launch pad 39B.
Discovery rides a pillar of flame
Discovery arches over on her way to orbit
Discovery rides a pillar of flame.
Discovery arches over towards orbit.
Back lighting a cloud
Back lighting a cloud
Discovery resembles ET's glowing finger
Looking like ET's glowing index finger
Nearing SRB seperation
Nearing SRB Separation
Acid rain at Launch Complex 39B
Acid rain at Launch Complex 39B
An impressive cloud generated by STS-121's exhaust
An impressive cloud generated by STS-121's SRB exhaust
The Rocket's Red Glare at Disney on the Fourth of July
The Rocket's Red Glare at Disney World on the Fourth of July
NASA rescheduled the launch of STS-121 for July 4th.  If successful it would be a tremendous punctuation for our nation’s birthday.

Since we were staying at the Grand Floridian Hotel at Disney, we had early access to the Magic Kingdom Park that day.   We decided to talk advantage of the early hours, even though we would have to leave at 10:00 to head over to KSC.

We got up and enjoyed our convenient concierge level food.  After eating we walked over to the monorail stop at our hotel.  We got on the monorail and road it the short distance to the Magic Kingdom.  Crowds were not bad at that point.

We got inside of the park and just as we got to Main Street, USA the driver of a fire truck asked us if we would like a ride.  Why sure we would!  They would take us any place in the park that we wanted to go.  Our destination was Tomorrow land.  Wayland wanted to do the rockets and the Buzz Lightyear ride.  Lexie wanted to do Space Mountain.

Mary occupied Wayland while Lexie and I went over to Space Mountain.   Lexie had two requests on this ride.  She did not want to be in the back seat of a car and she did not want to be in the front seat of a car.  We got up to the front of the line and the Disney Cast member told us where to stand.  I told him about Lexie’s request, but he ignored me.  His positioning would have put Lexie in the front seat of the second car.

We balked at getting in.  The cast member was not too happy with us.  I did not want to subject Lexie to something that she was uncomfortable with.  So we caught the next set of cars and Lexie got the middle position that she wanted.   Roller coasters are not Lexie’s favorite cup of tea, but she liked Space Mountain because it was in the dark.

After the ride we rejoined Wayland and Mary.  Wayland had met up with the character Stitch and was very happy.  We rode the Buzz Lightyear, shooting the evil minions of Emperor Zurg.

After that Wayland and I did the rockets.  We then went over to the Teacups ride and rode that.  That is a favorite of everyone’s except for Mary.  She does not do well on spinning rides.  A quick hop over to the Haunted Mansion followed by Pirates of the Caribbean and it was time for us to leave the park.  We rode all of our favorite rides in two hours and it was shaping up to be a great day!

We took a boat back over to the Grand Floridian.  We had been told earlier that was the best way to get back to the Grand Floridian from the Magic Kingdom.  They were right, it was convenient.

We got to KSC in plenty of time.  Having been through the procedure before, it went really smoothly.  We turned right at the first light into the KSC Visitor Complex.  There was a different guard at the security gate today.  We identified ourselves and were cleared to proceed. 

The guard was in a really good mood.  She was confident that there would be a launch today. In fact everybody was confident that day. I even felt confident that today was the day.  It was highly unusual for even me to have that feeling of confidence.

We were told that the weather chances were 80% go for that day.  We were also told that the weather at KSC just does not get any better than that 80% forecast.  Everybody was psyched.  There was a lot of excitement in the air.

The call came and we boarded the buses to head over to the Banana Creek viewing site.  Wayland and Lexie kept an eye out for alligators.  We got to the viewing site and got off of the bus.  We found a spot to sit in the grand stands to wait for the launch.  It was not far away now.

At 2:25 PM, Launch Director Mike Leinbach told Commander Steve Lindsey that Discovery was go for launch.   Leinbach said “Okay, Steve.  Looks like Discovery’s weather is, Discovery’s ready.  The weather is beautiful.  America is ready to return the space shuttle to flight.  So good luck and Godspeed, Discovery.”

Commander Lindsey responded “Thanks very much, Mike.  And I can’t think of a better place to be here on the Fourth of July and Independence Day, to be getting ready to launch into space.  To all the folks at Kennedy Space Center and the shuttle program, thanks a lot for working so hard in the last few days and the last year to get us ready.  To all the folks on the Florida east coast, we hope to very soon get you an up-close-and-personal look at the rocket’s red glare.”

At 2:28 PM, it was announced that the clock was at T-9 minutes and courting.  A cheer went up from everyone in the grandstand.  Wayland had Buzz whirling around, like he never whirled before.

An announcement was made that the wind conditions were such that an acid rain cloud from the shuttle’s SRB exhaust would affect the viewing site after launch.  Overall the cloud was harmless but some skin irritation could result.  It was recommended to proceed directly to the buses after launch.  I always thought this was a ploy to get people loaded on the buses faster, but I was not going to stick around to find out if my skin got irritated.

With only two or three minutes before the launch, everyone in the grandstands was asked to stand.  The Star Spangled Banner was played over the public address system.  I was rather surprised at the timing of this.  It was so close to launch and they were diverting our attention away from the main event.

The clock continued to count down.  It seemed like it was going a lot quicker than at other launches that I had been at.  The PAO counted down 10 … 9 … 8 … We have a go for main engine start.  A flicker of flame was visible at the bottom of the vehicle.  The steam clouds started to billow away from the launch pad.  The PAO continued “5 … 4 … 3 … 2 …1 … Booster ignition … and … Liftoff of the space shuttle Discovery – Returning to the Space Station … while paving the way for future missions beyond …”

It was an awesome spectacle.  This was the United States first manned rocket launch that ever occurred on the nation’s 4th of July birthday.  A few seconds after we saw the vehicle liftoff the sound reached the viewing site.  The sound pounded on your chest.

When the vehicle reached SRB separation a collect sigh of relief and cheer was heard throughout the grandstand.

People started to leave grandstand and headed for the buses.  We followed the crowd.  I picked Wayland up so that he would not have to walk between the tightly packed buses.  All of the engines on the buses were running so it was a little uncomfortable having to pass that close to them.

We got on our bus and took our seats in the rear.  That is where Wayland wanted to sit.  We called Wayland’s mother on the cell phone.  Wayland exclaimed to her, “Mommy, the rocket went and it goed!!!”  Indeed it “goed”.

I noticed that there were some fine water droplets on the windows of the bus.  This was the acid rain from the SRB exhaust cloud that was predicted.  So the warning about the cloud was not a ploy after all.   They were serious and I was glad that our grandchildren were on the bus.

We got back to the Visitor Center and got off the bus.  We said our good byes to our friends in the parking lot.  Before long we were stuck in traffic trying to head back to Orlando.  It seemed to take forever to get to the Beachline expressway.

We finally got back to Disney at around 5:00 PM.  As we passed through the main gate at the Magic Kingdom they told us that the park was closed.  It was at capacity and they could not let any more people.  It was disappointing to not be able to use more of our Disney ticket that day other than the 2 hours in the morning.   Even so, we had a great day and the two hours at the Magic Kingdom in the morning was well worth it.

We got back to the room and found a special treat.  There was a desert that was made to look like a white chocolate capital. Around the capital were 13 chocolate truffles.  There was also a large plate of cookies.  Wayland and Lexie where thrilled.

That night Disney had a special display of fireworks at the park for the 4th.  It was incredible and I think we had the best seat in the house from our balcony. It was a great tribute to our country and a fitting way to cap off the launch of STS-121.

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UPDATED : June 11, 2008
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