Watch The Space Shuttle Launch At The Kennedy Space Center In Cape Canaveral
Proud of watching one of the final space shuttle launches (STS-126) at the Kennedy Space Center and meeting a real astronaut in the process.
The moment had finally come, after months of planning I was finally going to Orlando, Florida to see the Space Shuttle Launch STS-126 at the Kennedy Space Center.
I had to drive from Toronto to Buffalo to catch my plane to Orlando. Many Canadians travel through Buffalo because domestic USA flights are very cheap.
My flight was at 10AM but at 6AM I was still at home packing my suitcase. Once packed I realized I forgot something so I tried to open it up but that failed, I freaked out since I had to drive to Buffalo. What happened was that the combination lock had failed so there was no way to open up the suitcase.
This would be quite embarrassing if you go through customs and they ask you to open up your suitcase and you wouldn't able to. So I basically took a screwdriver with my on the entire trip to pop the combination lock every time I had to grab something. This just goes to show how badly suitcases are secured, you can pop them without a problem with a screwdriver!
Once I hopped on the road towards Buffalo the vacation feeling was getting to me. Ocean, Sea & Delightful Beers. I got in quite some problems at the USA border. The people from the customs office were not going to let me enter the United States because my Work VISA for Canada was a year old and I wouldn't be able to enter Canada after that so the USA would be stuck with me, as the gentleman described...??...how stupid am I, to take the wrong Work VISA, so I ensured him that I was a legit worker and my name should be valid in the Canadian Customs database. So after some debating he was going to do me a favor and call the Canadian Customs who, thank god, confirmed my status in Canada.
Yes, now my trip could continue, luckily I did not loose to much so I was able to make my airplane without any further delays. At Buffalo I parked had the 'long-term' parking area where they only charge you $8 per day, not bad. After a smooth plane ride we landed in Orlando, beautiful airport by the way. I rushed over to the AVIS rental desks to pickup the car I reserved for the drive from Orlando to Cape Canaveral which was like 45 minutes away. The car I reserved was unfortunately gone but instead they gave me a better car for the same rate! An amazing feeling; cruisin' in the smokey hot weather with a brand new Pontiac G6 while listening to the local radio talk shows, I almost felt like a true American.
I was able to see the Kennedy Assembly building from the highway once I reached Merrit Island. That building must be gigantic. Checked into my hotel which was pretty decent and treated myself on a nice cold beer. The weather was so nice and warm. Being in a foreign country in an unknown city all by myself, the feeling is memorizing, I could compare it to my first visits of Toronto and Tokyo. At night I took the car and started cruisin' Cape Canaveral for some sightseeing where I ended up at a Japanese Steakhouse for dinner on the North Atlantic Avenue. I met some great people at the teriyaki grill, some people had family going into space the next day and another person was working for Boeing and had to make sure the shuttle launch pad was clean & secured. After this great dinner and experience exchange I ended up at some local bars & pubs.
I woke up early the next day because I had to be at the Kennedy Space Center at a fixed time, they probably wanted to prevent heavy traffic, since thousands of people will be going to the center. It was packed at the Space Center Visitor Complex, which is basically a small theme park that has everything related to Space. A rocket-park, a space shuttle, a presentation of all the old control room, and a bus tour of the space center which took me to other facilities on the base. The first facility was the Moon Rocket facility, I didn't realize that the moon rocket was as tall as 2 space shuttles and as heavy as 7 Boeing 747's, that is just ridiculous. Outside there was a tribune where you could observe the space shuttle ready for take-off in the far distance. I called my mother who lives in Holland from this spot to keep her up-to-date on the latest launch developments.
After buying some souvenirs - the bus took us to the ISS assembly plant where they have a few of the ISS modules for observation for the visitors. The modules showcased what a toilet and a shower look like aboard the ISS. There was also a small viewing area at the assembly base where I saw an entire Japanese section from the JAXA (Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) where it seemed like they were putting another module together. Back at the main Visitor Complex there was an entire field prepared for the space shuttle launch.
I got myself a nice seat right in the middle where I also came across some dutch tourists who came all the way down for the launch. A few astronauts climbed the stage and started entertaining the crowd with space stories before the countdown. 7:50 PM it was time for the countdown. This was a magical moment, I could see everybody waiting for the blastoff.
The astronauts were counting down out loud and once the last check was completed the Space Shuttle STS-126 took off towards the ISS. It was dark so all we could see was a bright star being shot into the air. With lots of noise we heard the shuttle followed by a smokey trail. My face felt warm from watching the burning star go through the atmosphere. Everybody was enlightened, this was definitely an unique experience.
After the show everybody ran back to the parking lot to leave as soon as possible since there was only 1 highway connecting the space center but... I noticed the astronauts walking off stage heading towards their cabin. I thought; "maybe I could take a picture with one of them", so I followed them and knocked on the window, they let me in where we talked a bit about space and where one of the astronauts gave me his autograph, this was pretty cool it is not everyday you get to talk to two astronauts. The astronaut's name in the picture is Jon A. McBride, he was one of the crew members on the STS-41G space flight.