More Launchy Goodness

By Julianne Dalcanton | May 8, 2009 9:00 am
shuttle launch invitation

As mentioned in a previous post, I am now deep into the Committee Era of my career. This means a lot of sitting in conference rooms, writing reports, and making Important Decisions. The work is essential for keeping the scientific enterprise running, and for ensuring the future of the field, but it also means time away from home and work, with no compensation beyond the frequent flyer miles you accrue, a satisfying sense of paying it forward for younger scientists, and sometimes a decent dinner.

However, occasionally there are perks. On the right you see the invitation I got in the mail a few weeks back. No, it’s not for yet another committee meeting, but instead is an invitation to the mutha-frakkin’ space shuttle launch! Booyah! Rockets! Loud noises! Massive objects going really fast in directions they are not meant to go! (um, can you tell I’m excited?)

The launch is for the final servicing mission to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope. The astronauts (including astrophysicist-HST-repair-god John Grunsfeld) will be overhauling both the scientific instruments and many of the systems on the telescope itself (see the great interactive graphics put together by the New York Times). I could go into exhaustive detail about everything they hope to fix, but the mission should wind up doing something like the following:

Before After



Even in its somewhat, shall we say, “well-loved” state, HST is still an amazing device, and still sends back cutting edge science, in spite of the fact that it’s down to running on a ~15 year old camera and back up electronics. But man, if everything in the repair mission goes well, the telescope is going to be incredible. Let’s all keep fingers crossed for the safety of the astronauts, and wish them the best of luck with their work!

(PS. I’ll be part of a press conference on Sunday, helping to honor WFPC2, The Camera That Wouldn’t Die. I’m guessing it’ll be on NASA Select (on cable). It looks like you can also stream video directly to your computer. Launch is scheduled for 2pm Monday the 11th!)

(PPS. And Astropixie has an image up of the most awesome NASA promotional poster ever created. I first saw it on a hallway at the Space Telescope Science Institute and have been coveting one ever since. Seriously — click over and take a peak.)

  • Darrell E

    Delurking to say ….

    Cool! I also will be at the launch on Monday. The original launch for this mission would have been a night launch, which I was really looking forward too. I saw most of the launches in the early 80’s, including the first launch and the first night launch, but it has been about 26 years since I’ve been to the Cape to watch one. Back when I always had prime viewing areas because my father worked in the program. Any idea where the paying slubs viewing area is these days?

  • Phil Marshall

    I have launch envy! Sounds like the trip of a lifetime. I sympathize completely about the amount of travel we do – and it’s especially annoying to be given frequent flyer miles when you can’t afford to use them! You might be interested in our growing collection of ideas for how to stay at home more:

  • Spiv

    Nice! I’ll be here. Cause, well, I’m always here. Do you know what kind of passes you got? (causeway, press, turn-basin, or something else?)

    Also, any thought of a CV readership meetup while you’re here?

  • Julianne

    I think we’ll be at Banana Creek, but I’ll have one of my kids with me and I’ve heard rumors that there’s an age limit, in which case we’ll probably wind up at the causeway. I’ve never been to a launch before, so I have very little idea about how it works. I’ve got an invite, and a site pass for my dashboard, and I’m assuming the place will be crawling with people telling me where to go.

    I’m probably not a good person to host a CV meetup, because, frankly, I’m kindof shy.

  • Spiv

    Yeah, as soon as you arrive the gate guards should give you some directions on where to go. Once you’re on KSC grounds there may not be a heck of a lot of guidance from there, so make sure you understand any directions regarding how they expect you to get from there to your viewing site. If it’s the causeway things will be very easy though; it’s not exactly on base and it’s set up for visitors proper like.

    Make sure you leave plenty of lead time. The whole of Titusville, Merritt Island, and Cocoa Beach get very stopped up as it gets closer to launch time. Even more so for hubble stuff. Same goes for after launch; bring entertainment for the little-uns in case you have to spend some time in traffic.

    Don’t know anything about an age limit, but if you have any ability to finagle it it’s worth seeing from the banana creek spot. It’s about 4 miles away with nothing but a placid river between you and the shuttle, as apposed to ~12 miles for causeway. Also BC is considered a “vip” spot, so you may have some interesting company.

    Ps: we’re all a bunch of shy nerds who are into physics. Don’t be intimidated by us :p

  • Spiv

    Checked with a friend here, they said they generally limit the BC site to age 16+, but if you already have the pass it’s sometimes possible to get it changed to a pass for “static test road,” which is a little farther away but still very good.

  • Kai Noeske

    This is sooo awesome. Goosebumps all over, leaving for Florida tomorrow night.

    Will likely watch from around Cocoa Beach – is this the best viewing location off KSC grounds (did not get tickets)?

    I feel like when I was a little boy camping out in front of the TV, waiting for the first Shuttle launch in 81.

    It looks like this will be a major media event, bigger than any other Hubble coverage before. Got a call from NPR yesterday to talk about deep field images, something that has not happened before.

    I hope they sell plush Hubbles at the KSC gift shop. I want one to cuddle up to.

  • Spiv

    Dr Noeske: A popular place for the locals is along the side of the road where the 528 bridge joins Merritt Island to Cocoa. People start lining the road area an hour or so before the launch and a lot of people waltz up the bridge right before to get a pretty clear view. There’s a similar view also from 528 heading over to the cape, but it tends to be a bit harder to get a spot there. Worth a try, however, since it’s a straight shot to the pads (as you can see in this map),-80.686684&spn=0.129245,0.163078&t=h&z=12

    A really sneaky spot that is a great view, and always has parking, is the cape canaveral hospital on 520: You can either walk behind the hospital, or get a view from the parking garage. Always seems to be an abundance of nice people there too.,-80.623147&spn=0.008082,0.010192&t=h&z=16

    Most spots closer than 528 or US1 are blocked off before launch for security reasons. US1 has some viewing spots, but is very, very crowded, and often has some treeline obstruction.

    Don’t worry though, you can see the thing from Orlando. The closer you get the more sound you get.

  • Jeff

    I lucked out and found a spot in Titusville, just across the water from the launch pads for the launch of STS-126 in November. A couple that has a home on the water would let you watch the launch from their place (and use their bathroom) if you made a donation to breast cancer research. I’d post the exact location but I’m not sure if they will be doing the same thing this time around or how much “advertising” they want. Here’s the (not very good) video that I took of the launch:

    If the couple is doing it for the launch of STS-125 it shouldn’t be hard to find if you drive around Titusville near the water as they put some signs up for a few blocks around their house.

  • Kai Noeske

    Dear Spiv and Jeff:

    Thank you very much for your help!!! This is awesome. Looking forward!

    The KSC online store actually offers plush Shuttle toys, with fuel tank and boosters… no Hubble so far, gotta ask Baltimore if they have one :-).

    Julianne: Enjoy!!!


  • Alberto

    I just read your post. I will be at Banana Creek tomorrow with lots of people from STScI.
    See you there. Go Atlantis!

  • Spiv
  • Kai Noeske

    Hey all,

    Thanks again! Watched from Titusville’s Space View Park . Fantastic! Happy crowds, huge party, spectacular launch!

    They did not have plush HSTs at KSC, but sure had inflatable Shuttles – ended up in the news with mine:

    See you all for the next launch!


  • Julianne

    Kai! That pic is HEE-larious! Glad you got to see it!


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