Nerdist was started by Chris Hardwick and has grown to be a many headed beast.

STS-135… Rain

by on July 7, 2011

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