Monday, February 8, 2010

Technomadic tweetup, blast off, and Who Dat?

We are still at our primo site along the Indian River Lagoon in Titusville, directly across from Launch Complex 39-A, 12 miles away at Kennedy Space Center. We had a fantastic view of the launch this morning; even though I wrote here that we would not be taking photos, we did strap our little Canon PowerShot down before hand, and started rolling video a little before liftoff. The result is the video Louise posted earlier this morning.

Shortly after I posted here on Saturday, we connected with fellow full-timers Chris and Cherie from Technomadia. They dropped by in their truck on a scouting mission for viewing spots; once they arrived here to find we had found nearly the perfect site, they decided to go get their trailer. The diminutive rig was compact enough to squeeze into the car-width of space between us and the next motor home, a space still available because my scooter had been in it all day. That made having dinner together a snap.

Being rather lackadaisical about the whole social networking thing ourselves, Cherie and Chris are much better connected than we are. Shortly after they tweeted the new situation, we connected with mutual followers @NomadRip and @fireytree, James and Maria, who drove across the state from St. Pete to watch the launch. The six of us walked across the street to El Leoncito for dinner. That made two nights in a row for us, but the logistics of getting all six of us anyplace else was more trouble than it was worth, and besides, this place has good food and great margaritas. Shortly after returning to camp, a film crew from found us all, and interviewed each couple for a documentary they are producing on the launch; we'll see if we get our 15 seconds of fame out of it.

We decided to stick with our original plan of catching some shut-eye before liftoff, so after checking the forecasts and tanking situation, we retired to bed, while the rest of our party hung out at the Oliver till zero hour. Party was also a good description of what went on all around us for most of the night; I had trouble sleeping and could hear some of it. In the morning, evidence abounded of beer-fueled revelry in every direction. When we did finally get up at T-15 minutes, I could not believe the sheer number of people and cars; every lot I could see from the deck was full, cars lined the road and even the median (or neutral ground for all our friends from New Orleans). There must have been thousands of people all along US-1.

As you know by now, the launch was scrubbed at the last minute, due to low clouds at Kennedy, which would obscure the runway in the event the orbiter needed to make an emergency "return to launch site." The disappointment throughout the crowd was palpable -- scrubbing for 24 hours was no problem for us, but clearly for many here, it was Sunday or nothing. This was clearly evident when last night's crowd turned out to be half the size or perhaps even less. That also meant fewer beer-crazed revelers, who were, perhaps, already spent after the Super Bowl.

Speaking of which, we decided to have a Camp STS130 pot luck Super Bowl party here aboard Odyssey last night; Chris and Cherie came over bearing chips, salsa, and beer, and Louise made turkey chili. We were joined briefly by fellow nomads the Browski family, @lukira, who left their Airstream trailer at Fort Wilderness in Disney World, and drove down to take in the launch from a nearby hotel. Hotels which had been completely sold out for Saturday night suddenly had availability on Sunday. We really enjoyed meeting everyone and had a great time both Saturday and Sunday evenings.

We dialed the Super Bowl in on high def, angled the 32" LCD towards the penthouse, and mostly chatted and ate throughout the game with the sound off. We were rooting for the Saints (Geaux Saints! Who Dat?), and we did turn the sound back on for the tense touchdown replay call, and, being geeks, of course turned it on for the Google ad as well as several other commercials. By the time the game ended, NASA TV was already broadcasting shuttle coverage. We again opted to turn in early, and I think Cherie and Chris did this time as well.

The launch went off without a hitch; I was watching the pad through the Celestron spotting scope when the main engines started and the boosters lit; we then took turns with the binoculars for most of the ascent. We were able to clearly see the boosters separate, and could see the glow of the main engines well into the flight, perhaps seven minutes out or so. They disappeared into some cloud cover in the distance just before main engine cutout and external tank separation, so we could not make out those events, but all in all a very spectacular view. We also got to see the shock wave of the liftoff approach us across the lagoon nearly a minute afterward, followed by the roar of the solids. Our little Canon camera recorded the visual shockwave quite clearly, but it couldn't capture the actual rumble of sound. Strange.

We feel completely satisfied with our night shuttle launch experience, and so today we will be moving on. The Atlas-V launch that was scheduled for tomorrow here at the Cape has been postponed until Wednesday; apparently there is a two-day launch separation rule. While that launch had been something of a backup option for us had the shuttle been scrubbed to a later date, and we had also considered sticking around tomorrow for it if Endeavour had launched on time, we don't want to take a whole extra day here away from our Tucson itinerary. In part that's because our friends from Live Oak never made it down here, and tonight is our last chance to see them on our way out of town. In any event, while the shuttle program is winding down and this may well have been our only chance to see an STS launch, expendable rockets will continue to launch here for years to come, and we will almost certainly get another chance at one.

At some point yesterday one of our readers, Ed, who lives right here in Titusville, dropped by to say hello and gave us a sheet of written suggestions for roads to travel here in Florida for a more authentic experience than the freeway. Fortunately, we'll be able to drive the eastern half of his suggested route today on our way to Live Oak. Most of the western half of the suggestions are roads we've already traveled on our first couple of passes through the state; thanks, Ed, for thinking of us. We were both on our way to run errands when he dropped by; I'm sorry we did not get the chance to sit and talk for a while longer.

We enjoyed watching the RVs come and go. Through the window of one rig, we could clearly see the pointy snout of a greyhound. Much to our surprise, at some point the door opened and not one, but SIX greyhounds emerged.

We should be in Live Oak tonight, and the panhandle tomorrow. Westward ho.


  1. What a fantastic couple of days. While the launch was totally amazing.. it was icing on the cake of getting to know you guys! See you out on the road again sometime soon.

  2. Enjoyed your video of the launch and your account (as well as Technomadia's) of the whole event. Safe travels!

  3. What? Two of my favorite RV/bloggers parked right next to each other watching the Space Shuttle lift off? Wow. I read that you were there for the launch and I couldn't help but keep thinking about you wondering if you stuck it out when it was scrubbed. Glad to read your adventure was a total success and you got to see the shuttle.

    Safe travels out West.


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