Only the nose of the Atlantis space shuttle can be seen on the far side of the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39's Pad A
Friday day 3 Continued
About 85 minutes before Atlantis was scheduled to launch, we found places in the view stands. There are usually about 600 people at this site, but it was heavily overbooked and I think there were about twice as many this day.
A couple of things confused us. The first was the large launch clocks which already showed only a little over 20 minutes remaining, but that was because there are scheduled clock holds in the countdown. The second was that the gantry hid the shuttle so thoroughly that at first we weren't sure if Atlantis was on Pad A or Pad B.
But we settled in with a few other people from the Nebula Awards and anxiously awaited the launch.
With about 6 minutes left, we were led in the singing of the national anthem. I don't think I ever enjoyed singing it more.
With 20 seconds remaining, the person on the PA started counting down and most of the crowd joined for the final 10 seconds.
We saw the first spark of the ignition and the shuttle Atlantis began to majestically rise on a tower of flame from the far side of the gantry. It was several seconds before the engine roar carried the two miles to our location. I found the launch very thrilling, but did not "feel" the rumble that many have described. That may have been largely because the wind was blowing from us toward the launch pad. But that wind was a good thing. The clouds given off by the launch can cause a strong acid rain and if they had come our way we would have been ordered into the Saturn V building and busses.
I was surprised at how long we could view the shuttle; at one point the announcer said that Atlantis was 80 some miles down range and over 40 miles up, but we could see at least a dot representing the shuttle Atlantis for a long time after that.
The rest of the day was somewhat anticlimactic. We road the bus back to the Hilton Cocoa Beach Hotel where we were treated to a light dinner in the hospitality suite before attending the Nebula Awards Weekend mass autograph session and a nice reception on the Hilton Pool Deck.
Barnes and Noble had books for sale at the autograph session and I purchased a copy of Joe Haldeman's new novel, Starbound, to get him to autograph and personalize it. We had also received several free books and I got autographs for those whose authors were attending the Nebula Awards Weekend. I also took many photos of the Nebula Award activities for the MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive.
copyright 2010 by Keith Stokes.