This page has been visited times, since April 25, 2001.
For most of my life, I have been a space travel enthusiast. I kept scrapbooks of all of the spaceflights. Even though I was fairly young, I remember the Mercury flights. My interest increased as I got older. Like most people, I know exactly where I was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. My interest in the space program eventually led to me working at NASA in Houston. I helped to run the computers there for Apollo 16 & 17, and the Skylab Missions. For most of that time, I worked in the computer room directly below Mission Control. I have met several astronauts, interviewed them, and wrote magazine and newspaper articles about space flights. A few years ago, I saw one of the shuttle flights land at Edwards Air Force base in California. The one thing missing in all of this was that I had never seen a space mission take off. Finally, this was to change.
I took all of the pictures on this page except for the ones with me in them.
Space Shuttle mission STS-100 was scheduled to liftoff around 2:40pm (1440) on April 19, 2001. I arrived at the Kennedy Space Center a little after 8am and went to the Press Center. The Press Center is near the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). This is where the shuttle is assembled.
Vehicle Assembly Building
When the shuttle has been assembled it is transported to the appropriate launch pad. In this case, it was Pad 39A.
Pad 39A. The large white pole on the top is a lightning rod.
The shuttle was moved to Pad 39A by means of the "crawler." At full speed, it moves at about 1 mile per hour when it is carrying the shuttle. It zips along at a speedy 2 mph without any cargo.
The crawler approaching Pad 39A.
Detailed look at the crawler. Looking at the car on the left gives you an idea of its size.
The shuttle on the pad (taken from the Press area).
At approximately 10:55am, the shuttle astronauts left their training facility to be driven over to the shuttle.
Astronauts entering their ground transportation van
Click here to see a larger copy of this picture.
After the astronauts got in their van, I went back to the Press Center. Often on TV, and even in some movies such as Armageddon, you have seen a big countdown clock with the space craft in the distance. This clock is in front of the Press Center viewing area. It is approximately three miles from the launch pad.
Me next to the countdown clock. The Shuttle is in the distance just above and to the right of the 8 on the clock.
Click here to see a larger copy of this picture.
Right on time, the Shuttle took off. NASA pumps thousands of gallons of water into the area under the launch pad. This keeps the area cooler and it helps to dampen the roar of the rockets. When the flames of the rockets hit this water, it generates steam. This steam forms much of the clouds you see at a launch.
Seconds after the shuttle's engines have started.
The Shuttle has cleared the tower.
The Shuttle has rolled over.
Click here to see a larger copy of these picture.
I was surprised by how fast the shuttle lifted off. Once it cleared the tower, it rapidly picked up speed. The flames were very bright. I had to squint to look at them directly. The roar of the engines was very loud, and you could feel it at the press viewing area. We quickly lost sight of the shuttle because of some clouds overhead.
The smoke trail from the shuttle lasted for some time.
Touring the rest of the Kennedy Space Center
A few days after the shuttle took off, I toured much of the rest of the KSC. This completed my pilgrimage to one of the homes of the United States' space program.
Before the Mercury Program, the military launched missles from Cape Canaveral.
This is the control panel which was used to launch those early flights.
Before humans went into space, chimps were sent up. There were quite a few of them. They were trained to perform some basic tasks while in the capsules.
This is the capsule the chimps used.
The Mercury flights lifted off from the same area. By this time there were more complex equipment being used.
This is the Mercury Control Room. Note the red arrow. It points to the button which was pushed to launch the rocket.
The gantry used to support the rockets.
This is a special monument dedicated to the "Original 7" Mercury astronauts.
After the Mercury missions came the Gemini flights. Gemini was designed to practice manuvering in Earth orbit, and docking two space craft. These flights carried two astronauts. Wally Schirra once told me the Gemini spacecraft was his favorite. It reminded him of a sports car.
A sign listing the different Gemini flights.
Then after Gemini, came Apollo. The goal of Apollo was to land people on the moon, and to safely return them. Apollo 1 was to be the first test of the new three person capsule. As with all of the other missions, thousands of hours of testing and training took place before a flight. Unfortunately, some sort of spark ignited the oxygen atmosphere inside of the Apollo 1 capsule during one of these tests. NASA investigated what happened and made hundreds of changes to the space craft.
The Apollo 1 launch pad. It is labled "Abandoned In Place."
The plaque commemorating the Apollo 1 astronauts.
One of the Delta rockets on a nearby launch pad (LC 17).
I have met three of the "Original 7" astronauts. I met Wally Schirra in San Diego at the Aerospace Museum. I sat next to Alan Shepard in the Mission Control Viewing Roon during the splashdown of one of the space missions. I passed Deke Slayton once in the hallway. I have also met several Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle astronauts, including: Gene Cernan (last man on the moon) & Ron Evans from Apollo 17, Buzz Aldrin (2nd man on the moon), Tom Stafford (Gemini), Dick Covey (Shuttle) and a few other Shuttle Mission Specialists.
The pictures below are a couple of years old and not from this trip.
Wally Schirra and me
Me and Buzz Aldrin