Talking Space's STS-135 Blog
Live from KSC
After running around the news center like a chicken with his head cut off and tons of torrential downpours involving a Phase II lightning warning and the shuttle having a close encounter with a bolt, they finally cleared us for Rotating Service Structure (RSS) retract, where they reveal the shuttle. However, due to the weather, as we got there, it was already retracted.
When I first got out of the vehicle, my jaw was on the ground. For one of a few moments in my life, I was actually speechless. I was at a total loss for words at the giant, yet somehow gentle, monster which stood before me. I stood there mesmerized at the sheer size and magnitude of it. Compared to the models and the pictures, it is bigger vertically with the full stack. A true beauty. Although it was cloudy, the overcast skies represent the ominous future of the future of America's space program, and yet at the same time cast a small light on the shear magnificence of a vehicle which has served a nation, through good times and bad, for 30 years.
When I was finally able to collect myself, I began snapping photographs left and right. In total, I came out with 151 photographs from just a few hundred feet from this American icon. Finally, one person came up to me and said the one piece of advice I am very glad I listened to. The New Zealand native said, "Put the lens down for five minutes and just make a permanent mental image in your mind of what you're seeing". It was the best idea I have ever heard, and took full advantage of those five minutes.
Of course, we had to pose for the photos in front of the vehicle. I am still, as I type, floored by what a stupendous vehicle we as humans, not just Americans, have built. This is the pride and glory of the space program, from Hubble to ISS, the shuttle made it possible. It diversified space travel, and in some way, whether through spinoffs or just being amazed by its capabilities, has touched all of us deep inside, and that's something all of us, myself especially, will take away from being one of the last press members to get that close to a vehicle on the pad.
As a side note, I then interviewed STS-130 astronaut Terry Virts and Expedition 26/27 astronaut as well as two-time shuttle flier Cady Coleman, and will have those clips either for the live show or for our next episode.
Go Atlantis and God Speed on launch day! Sawyer
After our press conference, we were alerted to a press conference including some unknown member of the Commerical Crew Development designations by NASAA (CCDEV-2). We were treated to NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, KSC Director Bob Cabana, and Mark Sirangelo, the Executive Vice President of Sierra Nevada Corporation. They are designing the Dream Chaser, which will act similar to the shuttle except it will have no payload bay.
After signing the deal, they will attempt to work out of Florida with the aid of Kennedy Space Center and support from NASA. They also boasted the ability to return crew members back to earth in a recumbant position in case of illness or after a long-duration mission.
Of course, the briefing wouldn't have been complete without a question regarding Texas not receiving a shuttle. He essentially avoided the question. I, however, did have the privelidge of shaking his hand after the press conference.
I will be out for Rotating Service Structure (RSS) Rollback if there is a clearing in the weather. We are in a Phase II lightning warning as of 12:45pm, and our press building has been rocked by thunder.
Don't worry, we're staying dry and updating, too. Go Atlantis! Sawyer
This blog is posted live from the Kennedy Space Center Press Site
So we arrived here for day 2 of Talking Space launch coverage. We will be joined later this afternoon by Gina Herlihy, marking the first time the four team members have ever been in the same place.
It began with the news of some minor issues at the pad the previous night. There was a bad fire alarm which occured on the 115 foot level of the launch tower. It was deemed faulty and has since been replaced. There were also pad chillers which failed. There are three of them for redundancy and a fourth alternate backup system. The three chillers all failed. As of 10:30am EDT, two of the three are back online, which one is only needed for launch. Also, there were covers that are on the pad for before the shuttle lifts off which are sealed using a rubber sealant. Some of the covers were falling off, resulting in replacement of some of the covers.
The only major issue currently being worked is weather, which shuttle weather officer Kathy Winters had nothing better to report. We are currently 70% chance of KSC weather prohibiting launch for tomorrow, Friday. Saturday is 60% no-go, and Sunday is 40% no-go. However, if they fill the tank and scrub it after L-4 hours, it will most likely move launch to Sunday. After Sunday, there is a Delta IV launch for which Atlantis will stand down. All abort sites, other than Kennedy, is go for launch.
Hopefully we'll have better news tomorrow. Go Atlantis! Sawyer
I had the privelidge of taking a tour of the facilities of the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) located throughout Cape Canaveral. The blog post will be updated with pictures as I return in the morning to the press site.
The tour began with a ride out to the SpaceX Control Center, where the Falcon 9 launch from the Cape was monitored. After going throgh the relatively small room with a group of large monitors, we proceeded out back to the grassy tent area, right outside the Air Force Museum, where the Dragon capsule was on display. Not just any one, but the actual capsule which had been to space and returned. To be honest, it looked like an overly-charred marshmallow, except at parts it was cracked and torn, but not sure if that was intentional or upon return from its couple of orbits. While at the site, I also had the pleasure of talking to former astronaut Dr. Garrett Reisman. Audio clips will be posted tomorrow.
Afterwards, we moved on to SLC (Space Launch Complex) 40, a former Air Force launch site currently on a 5 year loan. We were underneath the launch gantry, which remains horizontal until the day before of launch when they do a "wet test" of the engines and then on launch day when they actually send it up to space. They worked around the existing architecture to build their sites. One interesting thing is that between the lightning rods are wires which form a small square, which is where the Falcon 9 must go through. It's amazing how such a rocket can fit through such a small space.
We then went inside the facility where they are currently assembling the next Falcon 9, named for its 9 engines on its first of two stages. We were restricted to the images we could take due to a technicality called ITAR (International Traffic and Arms Regulations) so that others can't steal some of their ideas. It was interesting how the two stages, stage one and two, are made of different materials. One is of a stronger metal, the other a fiberglass alloy. Up close, you can tell the difference, but it works.
If you have any questions about this tour, I will leave comments enabled for this post. Feel free to post questions, and once we return to the press site and check our photos and audio, we'll be happy to add pictures and answer any specific questions you have.
The first L-1 event is at 9:00am EDT with a demonstration of the Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), so check out the updates here and be sure to tune to NASA TV to view it. We will also have personal astronaut interviews and others from around the industry, so look forward to that.
Go Atlantis! Sawyer