Holiday Photos

July 20th, 2009

Yesterday we got back from our Summer holiday to Disney’s Corondo Springs in Orlando, Florida. Once again a great time was had, we visited all the Disney Parks and Waterparks, and Seaworld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica. We couldn’t hire a Ford Mustang this year, but fortunately we were able to upgrade to a Dodge Challenger, which was super as they’re still not commonly available through the dealers in Florida.

This year was made extra-special by being there for the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. We went out to the Kennedy Space Centre on 4 separate days. First on the Satuday to see the visitor centre and the launch, but this was scrubbed due to lightning striking the pad the previous evening. The launch was put back 24 hours, so on Sunday we went our again only for the proximity of thunderstorms to cancel the launch at less than 20 minutes to go. Monday was almost exactly a repeat performance with a 48 hour delay. Finally on Wednesday everything went according to plan and Endeavour lifted off just after 18:00 EDT.

After all the cancellations (STS-127 had also scrubbed twice in June) I spent most of Wednesday convinced she wasn’t going to go, and the launch window would be over so I’d not get to see it. Given the shuttle program is finishing next year, I’d probably never get another chance to see a shuttle launch. Even at 30 seconds to go, when the auto-sequence had started with Endeavour’s own computers monitoring the launch I didn’t think she would launch. Five shuttle launches have been aborted by the launch sequencer between the main engine start at 6.6 seconds to go, and booster ignition. 5 seconds to go and I still didn’t believe it would happen.

At two seconds to go my mind changed from not thinking it was going to happen, to not wanting to see anything bad happen.

The big screen at the visitor centre showed the boosters ignite, followed shortly by Endeavour clearing the tower at LC39A. 10 seconds later she was visible above the tree line. A few more seconds passed and then we heard the noise too. I wasn’t even looking through the camera, just pointing it in the approximate direction with a finger squeezing the motordrive.

I heard the audio feed in the background: “Endeavour – go at throttle-up”.  It was just after that point on the 28th of January 1986 that the Space Shuttle Challenger was lost. Judging by the reaction of the crowd, everybody knew that too.

We stood there watching the trail, and at 2m 5s into the launch we saw the boosters separate on the big screen, and the separation was just barely visible directly. A wave of euphoria swept over the crowd at that point. In what seems like a few seconds later we heard that the external tank had separated, and Endeavour was safely in orbit.

It was an awesome experience. I’ve been interested in the Space Shuttle for as long as I can remember, and with the pending termination of the programme coupled with the tight launch windows related to the ISS mission launches I never thought I would get to see a launch. I got really lucky, and Catherine was fine about 3 extra days of the holiday being interrupted. Secretly I think she really enjoyed seeing it too.

Anyway, here’s the pictures:-

(There are only a couple of the launch – I wanted to watch it for real, not through the viewfinder! Try Youtube for a Video)

  • Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • Our Dodge Challenger Rental
  • Disney's Magic Kindgom
  • STS-127 Launch - Endeavour at 63 Seconds
  • STS-127 Launch - Endeavour at 25 seconds
  • Busch Gardens
  • Busch Gardens
  • Busch Gardens
  • Busch Gardens
  • STS-127 Aborted on the 12th due to this weather.
  • Seaworld Orlando
  • Seaworld Orlando
  • Seaworld Orlando
  • KSC Visitor Centre on a Launch Day, aborted with 15 minutes to run.
  • The astronaut memorial at KSC. Naming (among others) crew from Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia
  • KSC Weather
  • KSC Rocket Garden
  • Vehicle Assembly Building
  • The Space Shuttle Endeavour on the pad at Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Space Centre
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom

Anyway, I don’t go in for holiday souveners much, so I only got two STS-127 t-shirts, a STS-127 mug, a STS-127 baseball cap and an STS-127 pin badge…