Discovery's launch exhaust on 10/23/2007. Click the pic to see it larger.
By Day 6 of the Florida vacation it was launch day. We left real early and followed the line of cars to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. We got there about two hours before they closed the gates at 8am. We got in line and were subjected to a metal detector test. A note to you guys, they have tough security around there. We visited some of the exhibits and caught one of the two 3-D Imax movies, “Space Station”, before the launch.
Tell you the truth I did not think it was going to launch because of the winds. But I'll be damned, they launched at 11:38am! It was a great site, even though we did not see it until it cleared the trees. I made a mental note for future launches and found some nice launch viewing locations away from the visitor center and the trees. I could hear the launch four miles away and felt some vibrations in the concrete I was standing on. Nothing like viewing a launch in person, so if you get a chance, take it since the shuttle fleet will be retired by 2010.
A note to future visitors, get in line as soon as possible for the bus tour. Seeing how big the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) in person is astonishing. Seeing the last Saturn V on display was a truly awesome site. It is just massive and I had to take six pictures to cover all the sections of the rocket. Whoever said “we never made it to the Moon”, never saw the size of the Saturn V or understood its power. Here is a picture of the five F-1 engines on the first stage. The diameter of one of those engine nozzles is 12 feet.
Click the pic to see it larger.
We also made a stop at the Space Station Processing Center and viewed the shop where the components of the ISS are being prepped. Saw Columbus and Kibo station components. It looked like they were going to get started on building a third cargo module or waiting for it. One of my friends told me that NASA is preparing for the third node to be moved there.
The comical part of the trip was watching the hordes mob the gift store. They were like piranhas going after anything that said STS-120 on it!
Going to Kennedy Space Center, viewing the launch and seeing the last Saturn V filled me with pride at our nation’s achievements. I cannot wait to see the launch of Ares-Orion in six years.