With only 3 shuttle launches left on the schedule, we figured it was now or never to make a trip to Cape Canaveral to see one. Jethon rode with us and we met Ella & Jonathan (who drove from North Carolina) there. We couldn’t get tickets to watch from Kennedy, so upon arrival on May 13, we did reconnaissance in Titusville along the Indian River. We had been told that Space Park was the best spot to watch from, but it was already a zoo with TV trucks and yellow caution tape strung all over the place. So we drove around along the river until we saw a sign that said “park here for donation to Relay for Life.”
Here’s the site on Google Streetview.
A great couple lived there (he’s a retired NASA engineer) who opened their house for launches. They had snacks and drinks (for a donation) and a bathroom that was much cleaner than the port-a-pottie at Space Park! Their yard is directly on the Indian River across from the massive Vehicle Assembly Building. It’s about 12 miles from the launch pads as the crow (er, shuttle) flies. We got there early and just lounged all day, catching up with Ella & Jonathan. It was miserably hot, but everybody was in a good mood. The launch went off as scheduled at 2:20 pm. Honestly, you can get a better view watching it on TV, but nothing can capture the feel of the sound of the take-off. Yes, that’s what I meant to say. We were several seconds post-launch, watching the shuttle climb, and I remember thinking “that’s so odd – I thought for sure we’d hear something!” And that’s when the rumble hits (sound travels just over 4 miles/second). You actually feel the rumble a milli-second or 2 before you hear it, and the sonic boom just puts the exclamation point on the whole experience. The sound alone was worth the 7 hour drive!