Waiting for go

I just realized I never did write up my vacation! I’m using the term vacation loosely because it wasn’t a typical “go enjoy yourself” kind of trip.

My husband flew out to Florida first for work. His robot is going to the International Space Station on STS-133, which was set to launch Nov. 1. Needless to say, it didn’t. There were some mechanical and electrical and weather issues, a different thing every day. Thankfully they were able to take care of all of these issues … until the last day we were there. They found a crack in the GUCP and then one in the external tank and then more. Launch scrubbed.


Hubby was working the whole time; he only got one day off while I was there. We used that one day to go to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure with some friends. It was a blast as you can see on our faces! We were particularly excited to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We ate at the Three Broomsticks and Phil rode all the rides. In my condition, I only went on the Forbidden Journey and it made me quesy, but it was totally worth it.


Here’s me and another Heather with the conductor of the Hogwarts Express. He was an amazingly good sport. I think we were holding him from his lunch break, but he didn’t give any indication of being bothered. As soon as we snapped the picture, he disappeared, though. Almost all of my pictures from this day are in Hogsmeade. The rest of the park was fun, too, but we all enjoyed the Harry Potter section the most. I think the other visitors agreed, because it was by far the most crowded area in the park. Even then, we never had to wait too long for rides. Being there in the middle of a school week really cut down on the lines.


Another day, I went out to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex by myself. It was amazing. I’ve been to Space Center Houston a number of times (both are independently run visitor centers not administered by NASA), so I thought I knew what to expect. KSC’s visitor area is so much better, though! I went on the bus tour that was included in admission and was on-site for almost 5 hours! And that was without viewing the extra movies they had at the stops. The highlight was definitely the observation gantry where you can see the launch pads. There’s Discovery several miles away. Darn rotating service structure obstructing my view.


The tour also goes out to the Apollo-era Launch Center. Having been inside the Apollo-era Mission Control in Houston, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed, but again, it was great. They play a video above the console desks and light up the consoles as they come into play. They have big status displays, too, so you can watch it light up as they “go” on various systems. It sort of blew my mind.

You exit that area into their Saturn-5 hangar, which once again surprised me. I’ve spent many hours at Houston’s Saturn-5, and while that area has been improving lately, it still doesn’t hold a candle to Kennedy’s display. Plus, Kennedy has a cafeteria, which I sorely needed by that point. There’s also a museum and another movie theater.

While driving on-site, our tour guides were quick to point out the wildlife. KSC is located in a wildlife protection area, so we saw alligators, wild boar (with babies) and an eagle. In fact, the eagle’s nest at KSC is one of the more impressive things I saw. I’ve never viewed one before, and it was so much larger than I expected.


By the time I made it back to the visitor center, I was exhausted, but I walked out to the astronaut memorial and checked out the orbiter mock-up. I really wanted to see the ISS IMAX movie, but as a 10-week pregnant woman, I wasn’t feeling my best. I did stop by the Astronaut Hall of Fame on my way back to the hotel, but I think I was a little burned out on space by that point. Nothing could’ve lived up to the space bacchanalia I’d just enjoyed.

Here’s Phil’s picture of the official countdown clock as he left work one night. It’s the clock by the pond that you see on the news all the time during launches. That light in the middle of the picture is the shuttle on the launch pad just over 3 miles away. Phil was standing at the second-closest launch viewing spot when he took this. It’s not safe to stand near exploding rockets!



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