family and I
were on vacation in Florida between April 7,
1994 and April 18th, 1994. Our group included
myself, my wife,
Mary, and children, Marian and Toby. The primary objective of this
vacation was to witness the
STS-59 that would take our friend, astronaut Linda Godwin, into space.
originally scheduled to leave on April 6. However
the initial launch attempt of STS-59 was delayed one day for an engine
inspection so we delayed our flight to Florida one day as well. The rescheduled launch was set for 8:06 AM
on Friday April 8.
arrived at our hotel in Titusville at about 4:00 PM on
Thursday afternoon. Titusville is a
small town just to the west of the Kennedy Space Center.
I believe it has the closest accommodations
to the space center.
hotel that we stayed at was the Ramada Inn. Although it
is not plush, it was nice and more than adequate. The price for the
very good as well. Since we were
attending the launch, the rates were only $40 per day.
The location relative to the space center
We had a
vehicle pass that would allow us to view the launch
from the causeway at KSC. The
approximate distance to Pad 39A from this viewing site was about 6.5
miles. The vehicle pass stated that the
gates to KSC would be opened up 4 hours before the launch.
course I did not want to risk getting stuck in traffic so
we attempted to arrive at the gates as soon as they would be opened. This meant that the gates should open at
4:06 am. We got up at 3:00 am to make
sure that everyone would be ready to leave the hotel on time. The hotel was only about 10 minutes away
from a security checkpoint on the road.
checkpoint was set up that ahead of the actual KSC
gates. We arrived at this checkpoint
about 3:55 am. The security man directing traffic told us in a very
manner, "Too early, the gates won't open for another 30 minutes, turn
was a little upset since our pass stated that the gates
should open up in 11 minutes not 30, but he was in control. So we turned right as directed.
This dumped us off on to Highway 1, which
was taking us away from the Space Center. Great,
now what do we do for 30 minutes. After
driving a short way south on Highway 1 we did a U-turn
and headed back towards the space center. Off
to the right was an area that said it was open to
public parking and
this was just ahead of the security checkpoint.
turned in there and saw a line of cars that also had
arrived early and were waiting for clearance at the checkpoint. We joined the line and waited. The gates
opened up in about 5 minutes, so much for the accuracy of information
cleared the checkpoint this time without any problem and
headed on down the road towards KSC. When
we got by the Space Port visitors center ALL of the
pulling over into a long line to turn into the Space Port.
was initially confused, unsure if everyone had to do this
or just what was going on. After
running the options through my muddled 4:00 A.M. thinking process, I
stay in the left lane and bypass the long line of cars.
was the correct decision. This line
of cars was going to the Space Port in hopes of getting
a bus ride out to the causeway. Since
we already had a vehicle pass we were granted access without incident
the main KSC gate.
I drove hoping that we hadn't missed a sign and
gotten off on to the wrong place at KSC. The
vehicle assembly building certainly is impressive at
that time of
the day when it is brightly illuminated against the black sky by the
arrived at the causeway and people were directing the
cars were to park. We parked in area “G”. It
was now time to venture out of the car and lay our
claim to a piece
of beach front property on the Banana River. It's
not really what I would consider a river though and
it shouldn't be
confused with a beach either. We found
a suitable spot, planted our camera tripods and claimed this land in
of our family.
suppose now would be a good time to mention the
weather. It was cloudy, it was windy,
and it was cold. This is Florida,
cloudy and windy I can understand, but where did that cold part come
though the public address system claimed that weather
conditions would improve as time got closer to the launch, I did not
great deal of confidence that today was going to be the day.
only did Endeavour have a specific launch window to hit,
but so did our family. My wife, Mary
had to be back at work on Tuesday, April 19. If
Endeavour launched on Friday that meant that with a
plus 1 (10 day) mission it would come back on Monday April 18. That would be just in time for Mary and the
children to be able to see the landing as well as the launch.
guess the best thing about having to get up that early is
that you get to experience the bright spotlights illuminating the
the pad. Where is some “Also Sprach Zarathustra” music when you need it? It was quite impressive to see the shuttle
on the pad. This view by itself was
almost worth getting up at three o'clock in the morning for.
had borrowed a small telescope from a friend of mine for
this occasion and it provided us with a marvelous view of Endeavour. I had hoped actually take some photographs
through the telescope (it was the equivalent of a 1000 mm lens).
However it was
so windy, that the vibration was just too much to get any reasonable
we were passing the time we spoke with a lady whose
husband is a first cousin of Linda Godwin's father.
We had a nice talk. She
said that for Linda's first launch on STS-37, they had gotten trapped
traffic on the bridge to the causeway. Because
of that they did get a good view of the launch.
time, like us, they made sure that they arrived with
plenty of time to spare. Linda has a big family. From
speaking with this relative we found out that there are 9
children in her father's family. With
the limited number of passes that the astronauts receive for the launch
landing, it was surprising that our family was able to be included at
the causeway-viewing site it was easy to tell whom the
friends and relatives of the astronauts were. Everybody had on the same
of T-shirts and hats with the STS-59 crew emblem. If
you were a friend or relative of one of the astronauts you
received an order form in the mail from a small "Mom and Pop" T-shirt
company in Houston a couple of months before the launch.
Of course our family was properly attired.
and the children retreated back to the car to get in
some sleep and escape from the wind. I
diligently maintained our claim to the beach front property. I had thought about bringing a picnic
blanket for the occasion but of course never had time to find one with
the other preparations required for our trip.
rental car did have a removable piece of carpeting in
the trunk though and that worked out as reasonable makeshift picnic
blanket. I even toyed with the idea
that for the next launch I witnessed, I would purchase cheap lawn
could be discarded at the end of the vacation.
was now two hours later around six o'clock in the
morning. The sky was a little bit
lighter, but it was still cloudy and windy. This
was the time that the crew was entering the vehicle.
I know that the launch and entry pressure
suits are not terribly comfortable, but I would guess the astronauts
slightly more comfortable than I was. The viewing site had a public
system so it was nice to keep track of what was going on at the pad.
this point I wrote off using the telescope for
photography entirely and packed it back up. On
one tripod I set up a video camera. On
another tripod I set up my 35 mm camera with a 280 mm
did not want to just be staring through a camera during
the whole launch so I went for the tripod route with a squeeze bulb
activator. That would give me one and
only one shot of the initial launch. I
positioned the camera so that it would be in a good position to capture
shuttle as soon as it rose out of the steam cloud that it would
the water sound suppression system.
video camera I intended to leave aimed at one spot on
continuous recording from the T-9 minute and counting mark. As backup cameras I also had a Kodak
disposable telephoto camera with 1000 ASA speed film, a normal Kodak
camera with 400 ASA speed film, and a Kodak disposable panoramic camera. It was not an impressive collection of
equipment but it did give us some variation.
figured that I would use the telephoto, Mary would use the
panoramic, and Toby would use the normal disposable.
Marian did not have any photographic duties. Surely
cameras would be able to capture an image of the launch suitable for
finally came back out from the car to see what was
going on. Time had progressed and it
was now about 15 minutes away from the opening of the launch window. I sent Toby back to the car to get his
mother and sister.
minutes and holding, this is shuttle launch
control." The launch window this
morning began at 8:06 am and extended until about 9:30 am.
for a check of the weather, Astronaut Hoot Gibson, as
Chief of the Astronaut Office, was piloting the Shuttle Training
check the conditions at the landing strip. The
conditions were "No Go". The beginning of
the launch window came and went but
vehicle remained on the pad at T-9 minutes and holding.
launch director was cautiously optimistic that weather
conditions would improve before the window closed.
I did not share in his optimism.
was disappointed and was trying to figure out some way
that Mary and
the children could still see the landing.
end of the launch window was approaching and we were
still at T-9 and holding. The launch
window closed. However there was still
a faint glimmer of hope. Launch
Director Bob Sieck called up to the crew that even though weather
were still no go, there was a chance that they would improve within the
launch team was prepared to extend the window for thirty
minutes if it was all right with the crew. The
ending time of the launch window was determined by the
time that the medical personal feel the crew can spend in the pressure
their backs. Commander Sid Gutierrez
radioed back that the crew was ready and willing for the extension.
just maybe, the clouds will part long enough for the
launch to occur. Images from the 1970
movie "Marooned" flashed through my head as David Jansen waited on
the pad in a Dynasoar launch vehicle for the eye of the hurricane to
was not like it was in the movie though. Finally
Launch Director Sieck announced that
we would scrub for the day. Who was
more disappointed the crew or the thousands of spectators?
That is a difficult call.
to pack up the camera equipment and head to the car,
only to wait in traffic rivaled only by the end of a Nebraska football
game. Really the traffic was not that
bad, it only seemed that way due to the scrubbed launch.
After resting briefly at
the hotel we
decided to tour the
Astronaut Hall of Fame. The Hall of
Fame is a separate entity from the KSC Spaceport Visitors Center. It is run in conjunction with the Florida
version of Space Camp.
Hall of Fame has some really nice space artifacts in it.
It was interesting to me to see things on display that I have in my
home. I must admit though, that
since they have
Wally Schirra’s Mercury Sigma 7 space capsule, my collection pales in
we were at the Hall of Fame we met some more of
Linda's cousins who had flown in from Norway to attend the launch. They recognized us by our t-shirts. We had a nice talk with them.
had the opportunity to take a bus trip around the pad
with Endeavour on it the night before. That must have been a
tour. The next day, Saturday morning
would be their last chance to see the launch of STS-59.
They had to return to Norway on Saturday.
small airport near the Kennedy Space Center was holding an
air show of vintage W.W.II aircraft that weekend. The
Astronaut Hall of Fame has a viewing site on their roof for
looking at the Kennedy Space Center in the distance.
We found that the roof also gave us an excellent
B-17's and P-51 Mustangs flying overhead for the air show.
we did not see the entire air show my family seemed
pretty excited about being able to see the vintage airplanes. Maybe I'll convert them into being true
believers yet. After the Hall of Fame
we still had some extra time left in our day so we went to the Kennedy
Center's visitor center, Spaceport USA. It
is amazing how much time you have in a day when you get
up at three
o'clock in the morning.
is definitely not the gourmet capital of the
world. It is a fairly small town and
the selection of restaurants is fairly limited. They
seem to roll the streets up at 9 P.M. We
had asked for a recommendation for a good
place to go for seafood. The Dixie
Crossroads restaurant was the consensus recommendation.
atmosphere at the place was all right but the food was
mediocre at best. It was on par with
the dreaded Red Lobster Restaurant chain in the Dallas area. Another thing that we noticed in Titusville
restaurants was the service or lack thereof. Titusville
is not the place to eat at if you are in a
hurry. Service is painfully slow. After
experience we returned to our Hotel room to recharge our batteries and
camera batteries for the next day.
window on Saturday opened up at 7:05 am. This
meant that the KSC gates should open up
at 3:05 am barring encounters with unknowing security guards. Having been through the process the day
before we were a little more organized on how much time we needed to
for setting out for the space center.
allowed us to sleep in until 2:30 am. We
were on the road shortly before 3:00 am. This
time we arrived at the security
checkpoint shortly after the appointed 3:05 time. No
problem with security this time we were waived right on
through. When we arrived at the viewing
site we again parked in the "G" viewing section. Our
positioning in the section was better
than the day before though, because our timing at the security gate was
little more experienced than the day before we purchased a
cheap blanket that we could spread out on the ground to make our
more comfortable. The man directing the parking of the cars advised us
out for alligators.
weather was still very windy, still very cold,
but no clouds. I just knew that this was going to be the day! Although the wind was fairly strong it was
in the correct direction at the shuttle landing facility so that it
present a problem in case of an RTLS abort. It
was amazing to me that they could launch the vehicle in
of wind. The wind might not bother the shuttle but it did preclude me
any photos through the telescope once again.
the time passed we heard the shuttle Public Affairs
Officer announce that the crew was at the pad and getting ready to ride
elevator up the gantry to the white room access. This
was about two hours before the opening of the launch window.
family had been anticipating the launch of STS-59 for
over a year. After we had gotten to
know Linda, we decided that we would attend Linda's next launch into
whenever it occurred.
before the space shuttle first flew on STS-1, I had
made a commitment to myself that someday I would view a shuttle launch. I grew up watching Gemini and Apollo, but I
had never been able to experience a launch other than in the front of
was now less than nine
from launch. During the year of anticipation, I tried to
guess what my emotions would be when the launch finally became
I feel like a kid on Christmas day?
Would I be fearful of what might happen to my friend and her crewmates
if something went bad? I really did not
I ever got to know an astronaut personally, I was
never fearful watching a launch on television. Now
however it was different. I
felt fear, joy, and a sense of completion all at the same time. Being here, now, at the launch of STS-59 was
the culmination of a life long dream for me. This
was arriving at the finish line after being an avid
follower of the
space program for over 30 years. It was
as close as I, or as most people, will ever come to a journey to the
had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I
was really glad at this time that my wife
Mary was concentrating on the vehicle on the launch pad and was not
attention to the tears in my eyes.
video camera had been recording since the count resumed
at T-9 minutes. I was prepared with a squeeze bulb in my hand for that
of the liftoff through my camera's 280 mm telephoto lens that I hoped
turn out. In my other hand I held the
Kodak disposable telephoto camera. "T-10,
9, 8, 7, 6, main engine sequence started, 5, 4, 3,
2, 1, and
liftoff the Space Radar Laboratory mission!"
ignition of the shuttle’s main engines, for a brief
instant you could see a flicker of orange below the shuttle. Soon after that an immense cloud of steam
obscured the vehicle. This steam is
generated by the interaction of the main engines with the Water Sound
the solid rocket boosters ignite. There
was no turning back; the vehicle was
leaving the launch pad. The immense
cloud was illuminated from behind. Within
seconds the vehicle emerges from behind the cloud.
did not really hear any applause from the crowd of
assembled spectators. The only sounds I
remember hearing were "Ooh" from the crowd at the sight of vehicle
emerging from behind the steam cloud.
color of the SRB exhaust plume was unexpected. This
was the biggest surprise at seeing the
launch in person. On television the
flame from the SRBs is washed out to white or yellow.
In person you see a very bright orange or tangerine
color. The plume was bright; it is hard to
of my senses was surprised by the launch. That
sense was my hearing. The silence was
deafening! We were watching a vehicle
weighing in at around four and one half million pounds that was
upward away from the launch pad. It was
generating a massive amount of heat and light, and there was total
at least it was silent except for the blowing wind.
Finally after the shuttle had reached a fairly high elevation the sound
reached us. I was disappointed by
the lack of intensity of the sound.
you remember Walter Cronkite being shaken while covering
the launch of a Saturn V? I thought
myself, “This is it? Surely the shuttle
must at least shake the ground a little.” I
think that the sound level that reached us was somewhat
muted by the
strong wind that was blowing from right to left. I
guess I've been spoiled with my audio expectations by viewing
the IMAX movie "The Dream Is Alive" once too often.
but it was a grand experience indeed. I
have but one complaint about the whole
launch. From the time of ignition to
the time that the vehicle was no longer visible passes much too quickly. It is times like this that one really needs
a slow motion control on reality. Years
of anticipation waiting for this view and it vanishes in seconds.
contrail or cloud generated by the shuttle is also quite
a sight. It curved into the sky like a
cobra dancing to the flute. It was a
thing of beauty. It remains long after the shuttle is thousands of
downrange. Perhaps this is a large-scale form of cloud seeding. The exhaust from the SRBs actually transform
into their own cloud. The 7:05
time even made this scene more majestic.
At the lower
levels the cloud was a gray, brown and orange
color. When it got up to a certain
elevation, the rays of the rising sun brilliantly illuminated it and it
the color and brightness of newly fallen snow.
the winds began to waft the cloud around it almost looked
like the crew in a tribute on their way into orbit spelled out the word
"Mom". Perhaps this was in
honor of mother Earth. The
crowd went to their cars rather quickly. I
suppose they were eager to try and beat
the traffic out away from the viewing area. We
could have been in a prime location to make a quick get
away. The person who was parked in front
though refused to move his vehicle so we were stuck there until he
out of our way.
Hoot Gibson made a low pass along the causeway in
the Shuttle Training Aircraft on his way back to the shuttle landing
We went back to the hotel room for a little rest and relaxation.
afternoon, we decided to go back to the KSC
visitor's center and see if we could take one of the bus tours that
USA offers. They have two tours. One is called the Red Tour and the other is
called the Blue Tour.
Red Tour shows you the outside of the Vehicle assembly
building from close up. It typically drives around the shuttle launch
other sites of the modern day manned space program.
Blue Tour on the other hand shows you the older part of
the space program. That tour takes in the historic launch sites for
and the area where the first American in space was launched.
had been on the Red Tour before and expected most of it to
be closed down since the shuttle launch had just occurred that morning
wanted to take the Blue Tour.
my disappointment we found that the Blue Tour though is
run only on weekdays. Since this was the weekend, it was unavailable. My family had never been on the Red Tour we
decided that would be a reasonable substitute since we were already at
was surprised that the bus drove us right by Pad 39A.
That was the very launch pad where Endeavour
had been sitting a mere six hours before. It
surprised me that the launch pad area would be opened
up so soon
after the launch.
inspired awe within me to be so close to where the action
was earlier in the morning. By now there
was no activity seen around the launch pad. It
could have been mistaken for any sleepy industrial
complex on a
Kennedy Space Center really may need security guards but
it certainly does not need guard dogs. Did
I mention the alligators? We
certainly saw a lot of them while we were on the bus tour.
Alligators may have been endangered at one
time, but they are certainly well established at the space center. Most of the people on the tour bus were more
excited to see the alligators than they were the hardware of the space
we got back from the bus tour we went to watch the
IMAX film "The Dream Is Alive". I of
course have seen this film countless times, but it
was the first
time for Mary and the children. Everyone
thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course it was a
little more exciting after just having
launch of the shuttle that morning. Even
though I have seen this film many times before, I
still seem to
notice things that I have missed each and ever time that I watch it.
Sunday we took
the day off from any space activities. It
was time to provide the kids and my wife
with something else to think about.
spent the day at Sea World in Orlando and had a wonderful
time. The killer whale and dolphin
shows were great. They also have a
terrors of the deep exhibit that has a Plexiglas tunnel that allows you
through the bottom of an aquarium that contains many large sharks,
the like. It is quite impressive.
we went to Universal Studios Florida. The
amusement rides here were very
entertaining. The "Back to the
Future" ride must be experienced to be able to understand.
I think a space shuttle launch would be a
lot less stressful on the body.
and we decided that we needed some time off
from touring so we slept in that morning. That
afternoon we went back over to the Kennedy Space
Center to try to
get onto the Blue Tour. This time
tour was operating and we did get to take it. The
tour was interesting but I found that it was way too
rushed. I could not absorb all of
On a somber note
we drove around an abandoned and sealed
missile silo complex on Patrick Air Force Base. This
complex is the resting place for the pieces of the space
shuttle Challenger that were recovered after the January 1986 accident.
highlight of the Blue Tour was driving within a few
thousand feet of launch complex 36. These
two pads are where the unmanned Atlas Centaur
launched. What made this so special was
that in less than ten hours (at 2:00 A.M. April 13, 1994) an Atlas
rocket would launch the GOES weather satellite into orbit. We of course
well aware of this projected launch and I hoped to watch it. I was amazed that they let the bus tours
that close to the launch pad that close to the launch.
evening we went to what I consider is the best
restaurant in Titusville. It is called
Paul's Smokehouse. Not only do they
serve barbecue, but also the seafood offering was fairly decent.
has a great view on the edge of the Indian
River. Why is the view so nice? You can see the Kennedy Space Center of
course. It would be a great place to
have a champagne brunch while watching a space shuttle launch. I would highly recommend it for the less
casual space shuttle viewers.
Our next major
event on the agenda was the launch of the Atlas Centaur rocket in the
wee hours of the morning on April 13.
For my observation account of that launch please follow the Atlas 94
Two of the main three
objectives of this trip had now been met. Seeing
the space shuttle launch and the Atlas launch. Only
the shuttle landing remained. Mary and the
children would have to miss
this since they had to head back to Dallas on Monday, but I had more
flexibility and intended to stay on for the show.
The next four
days we spent at Disney World/Epcot
Center/Disney MGM Studios.
I won't bore you
with details but we had a lot of fun. The
fireworks at Epcot and the Magic Kingdom
were still great even though Mary had said they would not be the same. Fireworks and launches are different
Sunday we went
to the beach at Jetty Park. After walking
a short way along the beach I
looked to the North and saw launch complex 36. The
site from where the Atlas was launched a few days
would have been an excellent view of the launch. I
will keep that in mind in the future.
Maybe on our next trip to Florida we will watch an Atlas launch during
and a shuttle launch at night. The only
bad part of our beach excursion was that we got a little too much sun.
Monday we drove
about an hour south of Orlando to Cypress
Gardens. This was a nice
excursion. We saw a butterfly
some wonderful botanical gardens, and some thrilling water skiing
all in one place.
night I took Mary and the children back to the airport
for their return flight to Dallas. That
was probably the hardest thing that I have had to do
in a long
while. Having to send them back while I stayed on for the landing left
a terrible sense of loneliness.
was the day the space shuttle was
scheduled to land. The passes that we had for the landing were
going to be
significantly better than the ones we had for the launch.
I would be riding a VIP buses out to the
shuttle landing facility to view the landing.
would begin boarding the buses one hour prior to
touchdown. While I was waiting I struck up a conversation with yet
cousin of Linda's. He also had been in
Florida for the launch with his family.
like me he was alone for the landing. There
really were not all that many family
members present for the landing. The
launch, it seems, draws a lot more interest. Now
for the landing it was an audience mainly of older
retired people. I did notice that astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz
in the crowd
as what appeared to be an escort for a group.
the time arrived for Endeavour's engines to be fired to
bring it back from orbit, it was announced that this landing attempt at
AM would be waved off. Once again the
Florida weather was not cooperating. There
were too many clouds and too much rain, too close to
waited around the KSC Visitors Center rocket park for the
second landing opportunity for that day. I
feared at this point that today was not going to be the
day for a
landing but I still held out hope.
figured that if they didn't make the first landing attempt
that morning, the weather would only get worse as the atmosphere heated
up. The time approached for the firing
of the OMS engines for the second landing attempt at 1:53 PM. The weather looked bleak and they were waved
I stay in Florida for one more day for the next days
attempted landing? The weather reports that I heard on Monday evening
Tuesday's weather forecast looked better for landing than Wednesday's
did. With that in mind, I became convinced
Endeavour was headed to California for a landing at Edwards Air Force
by disappointment and loneliness, I made the
decision to terminate my vacation and head back home.
I arrived at the airport well in advance of my
enough I was able to get on an earlier flight.
you know that this earlier flight to take me home
also continued on to Los Angeles? Tempting
as it was, I called it an end with two out of the
know that I would have been kicking myself if the
weather cleared and Endeavour really did land back in Florida.I
did get to see the landing. However, it
was on NASA TV from the comfort of my own living