We received our launch
package for the STS-76 mission in the mail yesterday from NASA.
As we did for the STS-59 launch, we will again be watching the launch
from the causeway viewing site. This is about 6 miles away from
the launch pad.
Since we have young
in our viewing group., it is difficult to have access to any of the
viewing sites that would be closer. It is my hope that someday I
will be able to watch a launch either from the VIP viewing site or from
the Press Site.
STS-76 launch should be
really spectacular. The current schedule has the launch window
opening up at 3:30 AM. At that hour it should really put on a
I noticed on the World
Web yesterday that there is another rocket launch scheduled during the
time that we are planning on being in Florida.
This rocket is an
Delta rocket. The payload will be a Global Positioning System
satellite designated GPS-7. It will be launched by the United
States Air Force. The launch is scheduled for March 27 between
8 PM and 10 PM from Patrick Air Force Base.
During our trip for the
launch we got to see an Atlas launch in the dark. Now we may get
to see a Delta launch either at dusk or again in the Dark. The
chance for two night launches during one trip. This time I know
where the best place to watch the unmanned launch from is. We
will be at Jetty Park for that one.
I have never seen a
rocket launch before. It really boosts the odds of actually
seeing a launch of some sort on the trip when you have more than one
With the space shuttle
never know if it will be able to fly due to weather concerns around the
globe or due to electromechanical failures. Here is a toast to on
time launches and landings for the rest of March.
satellite Jian Bing 93 re-entered over the Pacific Ocean. It was
a Chinese spy satellite that went out of control shortly after it was
launched in 1993.
had a recoverable pod on it
that included a diamond-studded pin of Chairman Mao and a bar of
gold. I was hoping for a soft landing of the recovery pod in my
back yard last night. I really wanted to add that pin to my flown space
artifact collection. ;-)
For this trip to
entourage included several members of my family. The members in
attendance were: my wife, our son, one of our daughters and our
granddaughter. Our granddaughter turned one year and two months
old on yesterday.
arrived in Florida
today. Tonight or rather in the wee hours of the morning
tomorrow, we were hoping to watch the launch of STS-76. This is
another space mission for our friend Astronaut Linda Godwin. It
will be her third trip into space.
At 6:45 PM the NASA
team decided to postpone the launch attempt for 24 hours. The
weather forecast for the targeted time of launch was not good.
There was a less than 20% chance of having acceptable weather.
It was a disappointing
but we are well versed on launch delays due to weather. We
had similar experience at the launch of STS-59. Thankfully
this time the launch was scrubbed before we had driven all the way out
to the causeway viewing site.
That early scrub meant
could enjoy a nice dinner and then go back to our motel to rest up for
the next days activities. Our motel again on this trip was the
Titusville Ramada Inn. We've found that this motel is very
convenient for accessing the Kennedy Space Center.
launch day once
again. Being familiar with the routine of viewing launches from
the causeway-viewing site at KSC, we knew when it was the correct time
to leave the motel.
We left the motel at
hours before the opening of the launch window. The 10 minute
drive to the KSC security checkpoint meant that it would be open by the
time that we got there.
We arrived at the causeway and
parked our car. The next item on the agenda was to unload
our equipment and supplies from the trunk and claim our personal
viewing area. We did this by spreading out a blanket and setting
up the camera tripods.
This was Florida, so one might
have had the impression that the weather would be warm. That was
a nice thought, but it was far from reality. The temperature was
a chilly 45 degrees Fahrenheit. There was a fair amount of wind
and the sky was clear. It was a pretty brisk evening, to put it
My family retreated to
protected confines of our rental car. I stayed with our claim,
just to make sure that there were not any claim jumpers. I laid
down on the blanket and gazed at the heavens. To my surprise and
delight, I noticed that the comet Hyakutake was visible from this site.
This was actually only
second comet that I have ever seen in my life. The first comet
that I saw was the comet Kohoutek back in 1973. I totally missed
out on Halley's Comet when it returned in 1986.
As I lay
on the blanket, I
could turn my head and see the space shuttle Atlantis brilliantly
illuminated by the xenon spotlights on launch pad 39-B. A
comet an the shuttle, now that was a nice view. I had to
interrupt my family's slumber to share the experience with them.
I was probably more
with the view then they were. After a brief viewing, the returned
to the comfort of the rental car.
I resumed my sky
Against the darkened heavens, I know spotted a satellite making a
transit across the sky. A little while later I saw two shooting
stars. So I had the shuttle, the comet, a satellite, and two
meteors. What a cosmic experience this was turning out to
be! What would come next ET or the mother ship from "Close
As I contemplated the
I could hear the waves lapping up on the banks of the causeway.
This sound, the time of the night, and the cold conditions, brought to
mind a memory of fishing on the Platte River with my father and brother
in Nebraska. Often our fishing expeditions were conducted under
the customary hold in
the countdown at T-9 minutes the countdown resumed. It was now time to
once again retrieve my family from the warmth of the car. At this
point the excitement and adrenaline should be all that they needed to
My personal feelings at this
launch were not as intense as they had been for STS-59. I was
still concerned for Linda's safety and the safety of the
crew. However I did not have tears in my eyes this
time. At the launch of STS-59, I had completed my quest of
viewing a launch. This time I had previous experience and had
some idea of what to expect.
The clock counted down
after the main engines of the shuttle were brought up to thrust, the
SRBs ignited. It was now, no longer dark at the viewing
site. The night had become day. Blackness gave way to a brilliant
They were on their way
Houston! Each launch is different. Each experience is
different. One thing that is constant in this whole equation is that
you never can get enough of the view. You are left in awe and
longing to see more. Hours, actually months, of anticipation
culminated by mere minutes of viewing ecstasy.
Since it was a clear
you could follow the vehicle for a good long time. Even after the
SRBs dropped away, the shuttle main engines (SSMEs) were visible for a
good portion of its ascent to orbit. The SSMEs do not provide as
good of show as the SRBs but there is no mistake what that rapidly
receding star is.
From the perspective of
I think that there was more of it for this launch. I think a lot
of what you experience has to do with which way the wind is blowing
during the launch. The sound will never rival what I imagined
that a Saturn V could produce, but it was still a visceral experience.
retreated back to the
motel. We were too excited to sleep and too exhausted not to try.
Later that morning we up with some friends of mine, Tom and
Sumio. Sumio had actually traveled all the way from Japan just to
see this launch. My friends were fortunate as they were able to
secure press passes and viewed the launch from that vantage
point. Someday, just maybe, I will be able to share in that
Over the course of the next four days, my family and I toured the
Universal Studios and Disney Theme Parks.
March 27, 1996
We drove over to the
National Seashore. This area is closed during shuttle launches,
but opens up shortly after the launch has occurred. We walked along the
beach and introduced our granddaughter to her first ocean. She
now had set foot in the Atlantic Ocean.
All too soon, it was time for our son, daughter, and granddaughter to
head back home. I thought it was a bad feeling after the STS-59
launch when I remained behind alone to watch the landing. This
even though my wife stayed with me, the feeling was not any better.
There was such a profound sense of loneliness when the children
left. I imagine that must be how my parents feel when I leave
them to go home after a long visit with them in Nebraska.
To try and ease our sense of loneliness we stopped at the Universal
Studios gift shop in the airport and bought my now missing
granddaughter a stuff figure of the cartoon character Bullwinkle.
my wife and I left the airport we drove back over to Merritt
Island. We took the scenic drive that the National Park Service
has set up there. On this drive, we saw many different species of
birds that inhabit this reserve.
evening was the time
when the unmanned Delta rocket was scheduled to take the global
positioning satellite into orbit. This launch was also scheduled
after dark, so the prospects were good for another fabulous show.
read my observations of
this launch, please follow the Delta link.