Click here to see more of the pictures I took on the trip.
Click here to learn more about NASA and the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.
Pat Duggins reports on the space program for NPR and for member station WMFE in Orlando, Florida. He's the author of Final Countdown about the end of the shuttle program. Here's a link to Pat's Launch Pad, the blog he writes for WMFE's website.
See astronaut-in-training Robert Satcher's impressive bio. He's scheduled for his first flight in the fall of 2009 aboard STS-129.
Here are some great photos of the launch taken by staff of the Chicago Tribune.
Way back in late July, Bob sent an email to the staff suggesting a trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida to see a shuttle launch. He had ulterior motives since he also wanted to visit his daughter Eleanor who lives in nearby Orlando. Geoffrey and I both wrote back expressing our interest, then nothing happened. We all got back to our busy daily lives of producing, writing, reading, researching and interviewing. Once we got to mid-October, I set aside some time to think more about our possible trip to Florida, and wrote up a little description of what we might do and came up with a budget. The trip wasn't approved until November 5th and the shuttle was scheduled to launch on November 14th. That, as you may notice, is less than two weeks. I still had to find airline tickets, reserve hotel rooms and book a rental car...not to mention plan the trip and book interviews and prepare myself and Bob for those interviews. Luckily I had already submitted requests to NASA for our media badges at the Kennedy Space Center...just in case we actually got to go on the trip. As you now know we did, but without the planning and scheduling and preparing that we usually like to do. We made things up as we went along, not at all like NASA launches these days. First we had a little trouble finding the right building to pick up our media badges at the Kennedy Space Center. Then we went back across the water to Titusville where we hoped to find fans gathering for that night's launch. Since there were still 10 hours to go, I wasn't sure we'd find anyone at Space View Park. But they were there already and we made our first recordings of the trip. Then we had lunch and drove back to the Kennedy Space Center to figure out what we'd do next. We got to NASA's press area at 1pm and met up with Pat Duggins as he was setting up for his day at KSC. He showed us the lay of the land and we agreed to reconvene for our interview at 4pm. We checked out the inside of the press center which was buzzing with activity. We were too late to get a seat inside so we set up the Bob Edwards Florida Bureau at a picnic table just outside the door. We signed up for slots to interview astronauts Catherine Coleman and Robert Satcher. And we got dinner from a big van parked behind the press center with the NASA logo and the words "Snack Mobile" on its side. All you need to know about that meal is that the unofficial name for the van is the "Roach Coach." With just 30 minutes left until the 7:55pm launch of Endeavour, we decided to leave one of our two digital audio recorders inside the auditorium to record the live NASA feed, while Geoffrey sat next to Pat Duggins to record him as he described the launch to his listeners in Orlando. That left nothing for me and Bob to do but watch, listen and marvel. Here's what we saw. (By the way, skip to 2:57 to see the blast off)
I made a movie of the launch with one camera and took pictures with another. It was pitch dark out there, but when the big digital clock hit zero it literally looked like the sun was rising. This movie I made, those pictures I took and the sound Geoffrey recorded approximate the experience of being that close to a launch, but they do not do it justice. If you are able to, I highly recommend seeing a launch in person, maybe even at Titusville's Space View Park. If you do, tell them Bob, Chad and Geoffrey sent you.