the launch of STS-121 for July 4th. If
successful it would be a tremendous punctuation
for our nation’s
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
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.
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
the Magic Kingdom. They were right, it
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
go for launch. Leinbach
said “Okay, Steve. Looks like Discovery’s
Discovery’s ready. The weather is
is ready to return the space shuttle to
flight. So good luck and Godspeed,
very much, Mike. And I
can’t think of a better place to be here on the Fourth of July and
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.
was made that the wind conditions were such that an acid rain cloud
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
out if my skin got irritated.
With only two or
three minutes before the launch, everyone in the grandstands was asked
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.
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
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
People started to
leave grandstand and headed for the buses. We
followed the crowd. I
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
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
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
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.
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