Day 6

Monday 16th November 2009

Woke at 3.30am thinking of the impending shuttle launch so I listened to my iPhone for a while and texted Tina. Listened to some podcast and then had a shave and shower before Matt got up.

I have finally managed to get some cereal for breakfast, well I supplied the cereal the hotel supplied the milk. Matt had donuts (again) and I was also able to make up some sandwiches for the long vigil this morning before the launch. Looking at the weather it did seem a bit cloudy so I was not sure whether it would halt the launch. We set off early to try to find a good spot to view the launch driving alongside the Indian River. We arrived at the spot recommended on the Internet in Titusville and found a place to park. The area was set out for a prime view of the launch pads, with seating, a couple of memorials and even a restroom for the visitors.

We stood at the top of a semi-circle of seats overlooking the river and the launch pads across to KSC. You could also clearly see the vehicle assembly building. The weather still had not improved; in fact it looked very unlikely that a launch would go ahead. There were a few people already at the site, most with their cameras and long lenses aimed at the rocket for takeoff.

There were loud speakers close by in order that everyone could listen to NASA TV and I soon learned that the weather was a no-go for launch. I then decided to use my mobile to gather as much info as possible which meant switching the data on. Although in the UK this feature is included in my price plan, abroad it is not and it is very expensive. Sod it though, this is a once in a life time opportunity and wanted to use the technology available to find out what was going on.

As the morning wore on the area started to become more crowded and even the local TV station turned up. The status of the weather changed to ‘green for launch’ which was a relief; was it really going to go up whilst we were there? More texts from and to Tina, lots of tweeting and uploading of a few photos and fingers crossed the clouds broke up for a clear view of launch.
More and more people turned up making the area very packed, but everyone seemed in good spirits. About an hour before takeoff I got chatting to an American who had travelled from Virginia, some twelve hours drive to see Atlantis go up.

At last the count got to t-minus 9 minutes and there was a real sense of expectation in the crowd, with everyone cheering when the checklists were shouted out by the various controls as ‘go for launch’ was agreed.
The countdown started and you could see plumes of smoke at the bottom of the launch pad and then Atlantis was airborne.

As the pad is 10 miles away it took around a minute for the sound of the launch to get to us, but when it did it certainly was loud. The space shuttle shot into the air right to left with a white plume of smoke trailing behind. I took a couple of photos with my camera and one or two on my iPhone. I soon got tweeting with a picture of the shuttle making its way skyward and got some great responses.

And that was it. We had managed to see one of the last space shuttles launch into orbit, the main purposes of the trip to Florida. It finished off the holiday just right. With the large number of people all leaving at the same time, getting out of Titusville was going to be slow; which it proved. We set the sat nav to a shopping Mall in Orlando, Orlando Premium Outlets and headed west. Immediately we hit traffic and it was a crawl getting to the toll road that took us to Orlando. Finally things speeded up until we hit the toll booths, which took a while to get through. I rang Tina to tell her about the launch then we arrived at the Outlet stores.

We parked in the multistory car park and headed for the shops. This time we saw a much better range of shops and Matt and I were able to buy some clothes easily. We spent a good hour and a half shopping before deciding to go and get something to eat. We headed to International Drive and eventually found a Sizzlers Restaurant. I had steak and Matt had burger with lots of salad from the eat all you can salad bar. Fully fuelled up we then drove to the Prime Outlet Mall and Matt bought a couple more bits before we agreed that we had finished shopping and would make our way back the hotel. We arrived back soon after and I updated my diary before going to bed around 10.30pm. Another great day.

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