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Old 09-23-08, 08:53 PM   #1
Kurt Erlenbach
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Saturday's ride: Witness to space history (with pics)

My favorite weekend ride heads out through town and into the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and out to Canaveral National Seashore. The ride takes me just north of the north end of the space shuttle landing strip, and just north of launch pads 39A and 39B, the two space shuttle launch pads.

Since I've started riding to the beach, all of the shuttle launches have gone from pad 39A, which is about 5 miles south of the beach road. When the shuttle is on the pad it's an amazing site, but it's also a long way off. Since the Columbia disaster in 2003, all of the shuttle launches have gone to the space station, partly because it's safer - if the shuttle is damaged during launch (like Columbia), the astronauts can get to the ISS and wait for a rescue mission. On October 10, however, Atlantis is set to launch to the Hubble Space Telescope for its final servicing mission. Because there is no safe haven at HST, safety guidelines require NASA to have another shuttle ready to go in case a rescue mission is needed.

To get ready for the launch of Atlantis, NASA has rolled out the shuttle Endeavor to pad 39B, which is only about two miles from the beach road. On Saturday, NASA opened the service structures around the two shuttles on the launch pads for public viewing. Here is an official NASA photo:



Here are the pictures I took on my ride:







For a space junkie like me, seeing this sight on this ride was like a hit of crack. Never again will two shuttle be on the pads, because the program is being retired after another five flights. It's an impressive sight when you drive out to see it; seeing it on a bike gave me chills. Knowing it's a sight that never will be seen again was a very moving experience.
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Old 09-23-08, 08:58 PM   #2
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I am soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo envious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Old 09-24-08, 04:27 AM   #3
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You get to ride in and around my favorite piece of Florida.
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Old 09-24-08, 06:49 AM   #4
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Fabulous pictures!

I'm not exactly a "space junkie" but I did get to see a satellite launched a few years ago and it was impressive. Can't imagine what it would be like to see one of the shuttles launched.
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Old 09-24-08, 07:18 AM   #5
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Thanks so much for sharing. Just an incredible experience.
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Old 09-24-08, 07:40 AM   #6
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Awesome pictures and great place to ride.
Brings back memories of when I lived in Orlando and for a short time worked for one of the subcontractors who worked on the shuttle. Got to see it up close (can't remember which one) in the VAB. A worker showed me how they "glued" the tiles in place. I didn't know until then that each tile has a serial number and the workers use a drawing that shows where each tile is placed.
The wife and I were at Canaveral National Seashore last April but didn't see any shuttles off in the distance. Only the launch pads.
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Old 09-24-08, 07:58 AM   #7
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Very coooooooooooool indeed!
Where I work in one on the buildings they build stuff that goes up in those for the ISS.
I would like, or would have liked to see a launch.
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Old 09-24-08, 08:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RonH View Post
The wife and I were at Canaveral National Seashore last April but didn't see any shuttles off in the distance. Only the launch pads.
Here's one from Saturday from the first beach cross over at Playalinda Beach, which is part of the Canaveral National Seashore:



Seeing the pads from the beach is impressive; seeing a shuttle on one of the pads is awe-inspiring; seeing two shuttles on the two pads with the service structures open is jaw-droppingly cool.
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Old 09-24-08, 08:03 AM   #9
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Wow, what an incredible view!
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Old 09-24-08, 08:11 AM   #10
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Okay, I'm not over 50, I just popped in because I saw the thread title. Beautiful pics, and that must be a great place to ride. I saw a shuttle launch when I was 13 and I've been a space junkie ever since.
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Old 09-24-08, 08:21 AM   #11
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I like the pictures so much I read them here, too.

Like I said on the RC forum I've seen Titans launching (and blowing up) and it's a spectacular site. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 09-24-08, 08:48 AM   #12
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You may be a space junkie, but I'm a space cowboy. Bet you weren't ready for that.

But I'm only going to the moon if I can bring my bicycle.

I think what astounds me about the space program is the staggering complexity of bringing together so many people, skills, and branches of science and coordinating them to achieve an extremely difficult goal. It shows what humans are capable of when the will is present.
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Old 09-24-08, 11:10 AM   #13
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I've seen the shuttle, and so can you.

Mind bending to think that beacon of light is actually a manmade craft hurtling through the vaccuum of space at 17,000+ mph - with people inside!

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