A Recap, In Photos

Well, it’s hard to believe that just over 24 hours ago, I stood on the bleachers in front of the countdown clock and watched Space Shuttle Endeavour rise from the launch pad and be enveloped by the clouds above.

Here are some photos from the weekend, because a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to describing the launch, I’m still feeling a bit speechless! :)

The day before launch, we went out to the launchpad and watched RSS Retraction. This was my favorite photo from the day. You can see the gantry retracting to reveal the orbiter in place. You can also see the beanie cap at the top of the external tank that helps with venting. Can you believe how many little parts there are to all of this? Just think, a lot of people had to work REALLY hard to design, test, and create ALL of this. Standing at the launchpad, I couldn’t help but think about the astronauts who launched and went to the moon from this very spot so many years ago!
RSS Retraction

You can —>WATCH<— a cool video of the retraction! Click and check it out!

After the retraction, another view of the orbiter. On the top left, you see the white room. This is the room astronauts enter that leads them into the orbiter.

The shuttle on launchpad 39A. We were there at 3am and watched the sunrise. See all the people ready with their cameras on tripods at the bottom? Those people arrived super early to get a spot. There were news and media EVERYWHERE!
Sunrise over Endeavour

Finally……launch! Just before Endeavour cleared the tower!

Whoa…that was a LOT of smoke….


The trail of smoke left behind after Endeavour slipped seamlessly into the cloud cover. The smoke lingered for a very long time.
Smoke over 39A

My favorite launch photo is below, it was taken by Stefanie Gordon who happened to be on an airplane when Endeavour disappeared through the cloud cover, she was on the other side. It is amazing to see. On the ground, we could see a shadow cast on the clouds from the sun that created a dark line across the sky as Endeavour went higher and higher and the smoke created a more and more shadow. In the photo here, you can see that shadow across the clouds.

Whew! What a day! Just in case you’ve missed the launch, you can —> WATCH <—- it, too!   I’ve made this poster for my classroom and hope to get a large print and have it signed by every student in my class this year. I like to think that 20 years from now, when new types of spacecraft are launching into space, and the shuttle is a part of history, I will look at the photos and know that we all experienced that.

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launch2I just keep saying, “Wow.”‘  I am sure there are synonyms of “Wow” that I could be using.  Can you think of some? For now, that word just fits.  To describe it, it was very intense in the bleachers.  We kept hearing talk of low clouds coming in and of shuttle tile problems.  There was a thermal tile issue discovered and it threatened launch. It was repaired.  Then clouds threatened.  They blew over.  Whew.

At five minutes, the countdown clock almost seemed to go in slow motion.  When it got to about 8 seconds, I looked over at the launchpad saw the brighest glow under Endeavour.  The glow gently raised the shuttle into the sky.  It was almost graceful to watch.   The glow grew brighter. We finally heard the crackling from across the water.  It was so loud you could feel it in your bones.  Then, Endeavour gently pushed it’s way into the clouds and disappeared.  Space.  Wow.

Did you watch?  What did you think?


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While You Were Sleeping

We were up and at the Cape at 3:00 am.  This morning, we watched the Astrovan drive by, so excited that it did not turn around, and now are waiting in the bleachers.  The countdown is ticking and the sun is just coming up.  So,while you were sleeping, the astronauts were having breakfast and lunch.  Then they got strapped into the shuttle!  The orbiter door has been sealed……


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Twas the Night Before Launch

Twas the night before launch, and all through the town,
The Tweeters were walking, and pacing around.
The iphones were charged, the cameras packed,
Their dreams of astrovans and u-turns they’d lack.

The coffee was ready, for up before dawn,
No one could sleep, they’d rather just yawn.
The big clock was ticking, and glowing to see,
A reunion of SpaceTweeps was about to be.

The memories and photos, still fresh in their minds,
Of April’s attempt, an amazing time,
Of VAB tours and NASA press rooms,
Of terrible lightning over RSS loomed.

But today was the day, as astrovan drove by,
They cheered and they smiled, no practice this time.
Who could sit down, with history about to be made.
The final launch of Endeavour was about to take place.

When across 39A there arose such a clatter,
Endeavour was rumbling and everything mattered,
The crew was all ready, the launch had begun,
Just under the light of the morning sun.

As we stood by the shore and watched her in the skies,
We clapped, cheered, and tweeted, and wiped tears from our eyes.
Godspeed Endeavour as you head into space,
And thank you to NASA for letting us stay.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Launch is set for 7:56 am Central Time on Monday, May 16. Photos from the launch pad coming on Sunday!

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Your class can be a part of Spiders in Space! There is a wonderful guide you can download for free than contains information about the Orb Weaver Spiders, or Spidernauts, that will be launching with Endeavour and living on the Space Station in the future. Scientists are going to see what type of webs the spiders spin while living in a micro-gravity environment.

To sign up, visit Spiders in Space at BioEd Online!

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Launch on hold!

Endeavour on Pad 39A.The launch has been set at NET (No earlier than) May 13. So, for now, the launch is on hold. NASA did say that as long as we have our badges, we can come back and watch. I’m not sure if I will be standing at the press site watching OR be watching with students in my classroom. Either way, I will be watching and celebrating with Endeavour finally launches.

Here is a wonderful video that shows you all the work that goes into getting the Space Shuttle ready for launch. This is not Endeavour, it’s actually Space Shuttle Discovery. It is an amazing view of all that happens just to make it to the launch pad. Enjoy and I’ll keep everyone posted on the new “official” launch date.

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The Launch… Almost

Today we lined up in front of the VAB.  It was very exciting.  The Endeavour STS-134 Crew was in the silver Astrovan and heading down the road.  We waved.  We took photos.  We cheered.  Then, the Astrovan turned into the building, paused, and we waited for it to pass us and head to the launch pad.  It turned around.  At that moment, I heard the dreaded word “scrub” murmured next to me.  It was true.  The launch was delayed.

As sad as we all were, it is for the safety of the astronauts.  The heater that keeps the external tank from freezing in the cold temperatures of the atmosphere is faulty.  This could be devastating to the shuttle.  As one of our NASA Tweetup leaders said, “Space is hard.”  True, the excitement disappeared from the crowd like the air out of a balloon.

So, in the words of Astronaut Leland Melvin today, “Take lemons and make lemonade.” We got to meet astronauts, tour the VAB, and see the very spot where they put Endeavour together!  So, today, I got to see the Astronauts in the Astrovans driving to the launchpad, and see them turn around and go home. Many people have seen the astronauts drive to the launch pad. How many can say they saw them turn around and head back home. Well, now you can too, I took a photo.

Astrovan...turning around.
I’m awaiting details from NASA to see what’s next… :)

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Don’t forget!

As launch time nears, we’ll be heading out to wait by the countdown clock. Please tune into NASA TV and you can see the astronauts getting ready in the shuttle and watch launch at 2:47 central time!

At 10:58 the astronauts will be departing to the launch pad.

At 11:10, we will be standing alongside the road to wave to them as they drive by in the astrovan!

At 1:15, STS-134 will closeout crew member!

At 2:47: Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour!

I’ll give a recap later, but trust me, watching NASA-TV is VERY cool to watch the crew getting ready in the orbiter!

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Astronaut Leland Melvin

Astronaut Leland Melvin started talking to us about the hope of the future space program. He said, “When you’re given lemons, you help make lemonade.” Melvin was positive about where the space program is heading.

We are looking at going to the moon and Mars. We’re going to make this work, have to make this work. If we stop exploring, we will falter as a civilization.
We are explorers, we are curious. That’s what we must do in civilization.”

Here are some paraphrased questions that Melvin answered:
Q: Does pizza taste like pizza in space?
A: Everything tastes the same to me. I ate rice and curry beef. Lots of people put hot sauce on stuff to get more flavor.

Q: In all of your years of training, when you got to space, was there something there you weren’t expecting?
A: When I got to space, the most amazing thing that you cannot even begin to imagine is how the colors affect your eyes in space. When I look down at the planet, you need fifty different shades of blue to descrbie the Carribbean. It’s so vibrant. We were flying over Nigel Island and if you look down, it’s three dimensional, and turquoise, azure blue around it. The other thing that blew me away was an atoll shaped like a heart. You are in space with people you’ve worked with. You cannot prepare for it. It’s amazing. [NOTE: Melvin is a photographer, too!

Interesting stuff! :)

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Astronaut Ricky Arnold

This morning we are listening to Astronaut Ricky Arnold. Here are some paraphrased summaries of some great questions Arnold answered for us.

Q: What does it feel like to go into space for the first time?
A: Arnold described what it was like to launch for the first time during sunset. He launched from night into space, so the first time he saw earth was when he went to place a UV filter on the orbiter window, looked out, and there it was. He said it was “Just as exciting as you would expect it to be.”

Q: How did you become an astronaut?
A: Arnold answered that he first taught math and science for 15 years before being selected as an astronaut at 40. He has done several space walks and studied oceanography.

Q: What type of food do you have in space what is the biggest solid food you have?
A: The most common meal I had in space is Peanut Butter and Jelly. We typically don’t take bread because you have to be careful of crumbs in space. We use tortillas instead of bread. You get to choose your menu and it’s like going on a great camping trip.

Q: What are some of the cultural differences in flying with astronauts from all different countries?
A: One of the great things about the astronaut office, it’s not what country your from, it’s how we work together to pull the mission off. One objective: To execute the mission as safely as possible. It’s an opportunity to learn and work with others.

Q: What is the trip up and the trip down like?
Up: The best amusement park ride there is. You think you are prepared. You feel like the vehicle is alive. When the main engines light, you feel it. But, when the solid rocket motors light, you know you’re going. It’s likened to having a truck hit you from behind. You think, “I really can’t go any faster than this, and you continue to go even faster than that.” When the solids come off, it gets hard to breath from the force, then the engines cut off, you’re in space. It takes about 8.5 minutes.

Down: It’s very gentle and takes about an hour. It’s gradual and less dynamic. You start to feel gravity. You find yourself slouching. Things start to fall from the ceiling. The oatmeal that floated away a few days ago, is now landing on your friend.

Q: After 8.5 minutes to orbit, how long does it take to get to the International Space Station?
We dock on flight day 3. It’s a gradual dance we have to do to catch up and dock. We have a lot of work we need to do to get ready to dock. We have to get the robotic arm out on day 2 and survey the shuttle to be sure we haven’t sustained any damage from debris falling off the external tank.

“Some moments I stop in space and have a sensation to just be incredibly thankful for where I am and my surroundings.”

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