Fri Jul 8 2011

Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-135

Well, I decided to make the trek down to Florida to see the last ever Space Shuttle launch. My buddy, Greg, let me stay at his home in Daytona Beach. The launch was scheduled for 11:30am on 7/8/11, but the weather made it only a 30% chance the launch would be a "go". I arrived around 11:00pm the night before in order to get a good spot on the bridge (the A. Max Brewer Memorial bridge). According to everything I've read, this is the best viewing spot that doesn't require you to buy tickets (like for the causeway lottery viewing). When I arrived, you could see the launch gantry lit up with lights in the distance.

There was plenty of room on the bridge, so I crashed in the car for a few hours. The mosquitos were absolutely horrendous at the east end of the bridge where I had parked, so I kept the windows up and left the A/C running. Around 5:00am I walked about two thirds of the way up the bridge and staked out my spot.

You could see the vehicle assembly building in the distance.

By around 8:00am, the bottom of the bridge (east end) was pretty full.

The top seemed to be filling up, too.

This is Space View Park and it appeared to be packed.

There was a small island off to the south of the bridge which some folks had boated to in order to watch the launch.

A NASA helicopter was making the rounds.

This hovercraft went by a couple times.

Around 11:00am, the crowd was getting larger. This is looking up the bridge.

...and the base of the bridge was even more packed than before.

I had my ham radio tuned to the rebroadcast of the NASA communciations, so I and the folks nearby were able to count down. Here we are at T-3 seconds.


Freaking awesome!

Prior to this shot, I had the camera stabilized on the edge of the bridge. The shuttle was about 11 or 12 miles away and even though my camera has image stabilization, it's really hard to keep steady. This is also why the previous images were tilted a bit (the bridge was inclined where I was sitting). Anyway, when Atlantis went out of the top of the frame, I shot the rest of these using my red dot sight.

...and into the clouds she goes.

Man, I'm glad I made the trek down here to see this. I've wanted to see a shuttle launch in person ever since I was a kid in school. Very cool.