T-2 hours and counting …

Posted by Mike Reynolds
on Friday, July 8, 2011

I left my hotel in Orlando, Florida, (could not get a room any closer to the shuttle Atlantis launch site than that!) at 5:45 a.m. EDT. Traffic going to NASA's Kennedy Space Center was heavy but moving at the speed limit … until I got to Gate 2.

A pelican awaits the launch of space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center press site. // All photos by Mike Reynolds
It took me more than 30 minutes to get through that security check point, with two more to go. Arriving at the press site around 7:30 this morning, it did not seem as crowded as I expected. (Press at the earlier shuttle launches, like STS-1 in April 1981, were larger, I think.)

The weather actually is improving; there is a bright light to the east — the Sun! Yet the forecast is still for only a 30 percent chance of launch today. The Florida state bird — the mosquito — is out in force!

The STS-135 crew went by the press site in their AstroVan at 7:46 a.m., to the cheers of NASA employees and press alike. STS-135 Commander Christopher Ferguson was quoted as saying, “Let’s get this show on the road,” as they left for the launch pad.

As of 9 a.m., the Shuttle Training Aircraft, had just started to make its approaches to the Shuttle Landing Facility. Flown by astronauts, they check to see if conditions are favorable for a landing at the Shuttle Landing Facility in case of a Return to Launch Site Abort.

The press site was filled with reporters and clouds as of 9 a.m. EDT July 8.
I am almost finished setting up my imaging equipment: an Explore Scientific 102mm APO with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II for imaging. I also will be using a couple of Cisco Flip-Cams to record “the moment.” Maybe it’s just a dress rehearsal today.

More updates as the morning progresses!

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