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STS-135… Rain

Matt Mira and Atlantis

Smile stifled by crippling humidity

Despite the rain and crippling humidity, the service structure was removed and Atlantis was revealed to an eager crowd of Twitter users.  But I’ll get to that later.

The morning started with an introduction of all the folks at the Tweet-up.  A suspiciously high number of people working for twitter were in attendance.  A lot of scientists, engineering students and spacenuts were there as well.  I fell into the later category.  The introductions were just wrapping up as the rain began ramping up.

When I say rain, I mean RAIN. Heavy downpours and incredible thunder and lighting.  I called it amazing, Florida calls it Thursday. At one point the lighting and rain became such an issue that NASA TV had to shut down the coverage of the Tweet-up for Ustream.

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The TV was muted. Your guess is as good as mine.

The Tweet-up was incredibly well organized.  The tent they put us in was impressive, it had AC, Wi-FI and Flat Screen TV’s showing NASATV.  It was like my apartment, but air conditioned. Astronauts Mike Massimino and Doug Wheelock were there to answer questions and talk to Elmo.

Astronauts and a Muppet

2 Astronauts and a Muppet

The talk was actually really enjoyable.   If you haven’t yet seen the NOVA special on Atlantis’ mission to save the hubble, I suggest you surf over to Netflix and watch it.  You get to know Mike Massimino and the Atlantis Orbiter.  Massimino himself is fascinating.  He’s an incredibly forthright and thoughtful man.  His NY accent is actually charming.  It doesn’t hurt that he is an Astronaut with a Doctorate of Mechanical Engineering from MIT.

Doug Wheelock is a test pilot by trade and a Colonel in the Army.  He is like the old breed of astronaut. He looks like an astronaut. Or at least what you imagine an astronaut looks like when you were a kid. A veteran of the Shuttle program (STS-120), He also spent 6 months on the ISS (cool) and got there and back on a Russian Soyuz capsule (super cool).

Astronaut Doug Wheelock

Yeah, I look like what you imagined an astronaut would look like

The rain gave us more time than expected with Angie Brewer, Flow Director of Atlantis.  Essentially she is there to oversee that the Orbiter is flight ready and safe.  You could tell in her voice that she was sad to say goodbye to Atlantis.   It was bitter sweet though because Atlantis is the orbiter that will be staying at the Kennedy Space Center after she is retired.

Angie Brewer

Angie Brewer, Atlantis flow director. KSC

he weather finally cleared long enough for us to board a tour bus to Pad 39A.  Rolling up to the tower was truly awe inspiring. We journeyed far past the regular viewing area of KSC, to a special roped off section. When we got there, the Rotating Service Structure was still shielding the orbiter from view and the elements.

Service Structure

That gray thing is the Service Structure

Then, as we were all gathered around, the structure began to roll away, and a collective gasp of 150 tweet-up participants was heard (I’ll be honest, I laughed. I wanted to gasp, but a nervous laughter was all I could muster), and the Shuttle was revealed.

Atlantis

Yeah I took this picture. That's how close we were.

After spending a lot of time staring at the Shuttle perched on the very same platform that launched Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins into history, we were ushered back to the bus for our next stop, the Vehicle Assembly Building or VAB.  You know, that place where they built those rockets that flew to the moon.

VAB and my giant head.

My head is almost as large as the 3rd largest building in the world.

This place was ENOURMOUS. The doors on the side of the building are 456 feet tall.  This is where they vertically assembled Saturn V rockets…. You remember those, right? Well, when rolled out of the building the Saturn V cleared those doors… by 6 feet.

VAB Interior

It's bigger on the inside...

The next stop on the tour was to my personal favorite place, the Saturn V Center.

There resides one of the 3 leftover Saturn V rockets.  Leftover from a scrapped Apollo program.  It’s lying on its side and is just as impressive as ever.

Apollo Matt

Me and stage one. Each engine is 12 feet in diameter.

Stage 2

Stage 2.... It keeps going....

Stage 3 and the Command Module

Does this qualify as the "business end" of the Saturn V?

This was an amazing sight. Being so close to a real Saturn V, thinking about the fact that the Apollo astronauts were the only people to ever leave Earth orbit.  Thinking about the fact that they accomplished all of this 40 years ago, with far less computing power than my iPhone (to be fair, the Saturn V probably had better battery life). I also took about 283 more pictures.   More of which I will be sharing tomorrow. In the meantime I have to get some rest because I may have to leave here at 3am to go watch the end of an era.

Don’t forget, as my brain turns to mush from excitement and lack of sleep you can follow all my happenings on twitter.

twitter.com/mattmira

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38 comments

  • seeing the saturn V in person at the Saturn V centre was one of the highlights of my life and the only reason I ever went to florida (once, ever) even though my parents wintered there for a decade and kept inviting me. This rocket and those astronauts did things that have never been surpassed.

  • Peggy, lol…I have had a crush on Matt for ages. It’s downright embarrassing. I mentioned something “Matt said on the podcast” and my ears turn red and my husband laughs at me.

  • Wow great shots Mat!! We were on Cocoa Beach, but had to leave before the launch, we had a flight out of Orlando at five, and didn’t want to be gridlocked on the island. Got to park and watch it from over the bridge though! So fantastic! Thanks for the great picks, (and inspiring another heavy brother to try and shed a few, 25 so far) cheers!

  • Wow, way to f-this one up Matt. You did such a great job that now everyone is going to expect you to keep this level of blogging it up. Being such a science snob, I found it very comforting to see how well you represented what you saw and the inspirational experience of seeing NASA in some of its glory. I also recommend the “When We Left the Earth” series on Netflix chronicling the entire Shuttle Program. Including designing the different rockets, the Space Shuttle, and also the mentioned mission to save the Hubble telescope. But really, being at the cite of such great feats of human ingenuity, did the rain deserve to be described as ‘amazing’? ;)

    I hope Joe Rogan was watching the Science Channel today, fellow ‘moon hoaxers’ can watch the Moon Missions all day on marathon!!!

  • Great pics Matt! I would have loved to been there. You were a part of history and you can repeat it to others till your grand kids roll their eyes and whine “not this story again!”. :D

    By the way did you happen to run into Seth Green, I think he was down that way too.

  • I’m just really enjoying the fact that you’re posting and tweeting, Matt! It’s great to read what you have to say, and it feels like a natural and very cool extension of the podcast. Loving it! :-)

  • Wasn’t really paying attention to what this Shuttle flight actually means… then heard from the news it was the last one. Quite momentous and shows a lack of interest with Spaceships… I need to be more nerd-awesome.

    Anyways, just the perfect moment to say Mira-Booey! and Grats /Good luck on not breaking anything NASA-y.

  • Matthew, this is wonderful. I am sure that I am not alone in enjoying this whole experience vicariously through you. I happened to be on the right coast of FL in 2009 to see the launch of Discovery after a week of delays and I took the opportunity to stay at the center all day to watch the sunset launch. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!

    Also, Matthew, you should blog more on the Nerdist since it’s good practice and fun.

  • So, Matt, did your heart stop when they stopped the countdown at 0:31?

    Seriously, though… I hope you had a very enjoyable time – what a mix of excitement and sadness it must have been to see the last Shuttle launch.

  • Great update, Matt. I am so very jealous of you getting to be there.

    Neil deGrasse Tyson had a great interview on NPR yesterday about the end of the Shuttle era. He said something to the effect of “…we should not be sad that an era of space travel is ending, but rather that there is nothing in sitting in the next hangar, waiting to be the start of the next space era…”

    So while I loved seeing your pix of the Saturn V, I couldn’t help but think about how much happier I would have been if they were pictures of the next generataion of space vehicles, allowing humankind “to slip the surly bonds of earth…”

  • The Saturn V is liquid fueled, yes? So I imagine that it wasn’t fueled up and doesn’t have anything combustible in it just sitting right there for decades. Otherwise (if it were solid rocket fuel, for example), I’m not sure I’d want to stand anywhere near that thing. Come to think of it, where and how do they store the Solid Rocket Boosters for the shuttle and do they have any of those that are just going to be sitting around for decades now that the Shuttle’s retired? That’s a scary thought.

  • Thanks so much for the work you’re doing to show us your experience with the last shuttle mission! Unfortunately, as a grad student I was totally unable to go. But thanks to your tweets & blog post really kept me in the know in real time! Thanks again, Matt! I can’t wait to see the rest of the pictures you took! Sincerely, @digslair.

  • Another awesome update.. the Saturn V is just… man dwarfs us pale hoomins man crazy awesome.

    Best line: “…with far less computing power than my iPhone (to be fair, the Saturn V probably had better battery life).”
    - HA

  • I was there a few years ago for another Space Shuttle Atlantis launch but never got to see the shuttle on the Launch pad. I am so jealous. I wish I was down there. I did have the pleasure, when I did a research project to fly on NASA’s weightless wonder, to meet Sandy Magnus. She was one of the single coolest people I have ever met. I hope you had a chance to talk to her. She is so kind and down to earth (except when she is 200+ miles above Earth…haha cheesy). Enjoy every second of you nerding out trip, I know I did.

  • Thanks for posting and sharing the pics. I can’t imagine standing there and looking at a Saturn rocket, inside a building with doors that are 456 feet high. My brain can’t compute. That must have been amazing. I hope the weather is clear for tomorrow.

  • Hope you have a beautiful day Friday. You will literally be watching history being made. I used to live in Florida and took the shuttle program for granted. I never went to a launch, but we could see contrails from our west-coast dock on take offs and more than once we heard the sonic boom when the shuttle came in for a landing. Now it’s almost over. End of an era. Time for the space program to regenerate. Tenga un buen viaje, Atlantis.

  • Is anyone else amazed by how mind-blowingly svelte Matt is looking? I know this is about the shuttle but Matt, you are looking STELLAR. Your progress is OUTTA THIS WORLD. Also SPACE

  • If by less computing power you mean a brunt of the design calcs were likely done on a slide rule.

    Love these btw, it’s sad to see the shuttle program go.

  • I hope the weather cooperates for the big day! Your excitement about all of this is contagious. I’m sharing your updates with my 13 year old nerd boy. :)

  • 1. Love the “Bigger on the Inside” caption. Obviously the Doctor has helped NASA design their buildings.
    2. Way to represent with the Nerdist shirt.
    3. Another great blog entry. Post on, Mira-Booey, post on!