Monday, May 30, 2011

Register for Tickets Now

Registration is now open for STS-135 launch viewing tickets through KSC.  If you would like to join our merry group please click the link below to register for tickets.  If you are selected for the lottery please let me know and we can coordinate the ticket purchase.

Remember there are 3 types of tickets you can get from the lottery:
  1. Causeway Tickets - these are the best tickets.
  2. Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Center Tickets - these are the next best as you are 7 miles away but won't see the launch until the shuttle clears the tree line.
  3. Astronaut Hall of Fame - these are the worst as you are 12 miles away and won't see the launch until the shuttle clears the tree line.
If you are selected for Causeway tickets then please purchase the maximum number allowed.  Those who then can't view the launch from the Causeway can use my private spot in Titusville which is better then numbers 2 and 3 above.

Click this link to register.  You only have until June 5.

Good luck everyone in the lottery!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Comcast Decision

As you know, if you read this blog, I’ve had a decision to make in regards to the upcoming digital transition with Comcast. In our area it starts June 25 where all channels from Comcast will be digital. You can read the full story here.

After much research, we decided to give up our wonder TiVo’s and try Comcast’s DVRs. The one feature we are giving up that we think we will miss the most is the ability to transfer a program from one DVR to another. This has come in very handy but we think we will be able to work around that limitation most of the time thanks to the On-Demand service. If there is a show we want to watch that is on the other DVR we may be able to find it and watch it from On-Demand.

I went to the local Comcast office to pick up our new DVRs however; they only had the older model in stock. They ordered me the new model, which has a touchscreen front and 100 hours more storage. It should arrive sometime next week.

Once I get it setup and working, I’ll post some reviews. I’ve read that getting these newer units up and running can be a bit slow. Should be interesting.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

How to See the Last Shuttle Launch STS-135

So you want to see a shuttle launch? Oh, wait. You want to see the last shuttle launch ever!? You must be crazy. Fortunately, I was blessed with a healthy dose of crazy and have attended the last 3 shuttle launches, STS 132, 133, and 134 so I might be able to provide some wisdom.

NASA is expecting a record crowd for the final launch. Upwards of 1 million people could cram the Space Coast and break the record set when Apollo 11 launched for the moon.

First, how much money you got? Launch viewing trips aren't cheap. Attending in groups can save money but you still have expenses like travel (flights, rental cars, gas), ground (hotel, food), and any costs associated with where you view the launch from.

Second, how flexible are you? NASA is very upfront that launching humans into space is risky business and there are many things that can go wrong. Only 1 of the last 3 launches has launched on schedule. Your flexibility also affects your cost. How long can you hang around for delays? I've always taken the approach that if I'm going to start something I'm going to finish it. I'm also fortunate to have a job I can do from anywhere I can get online. So I'm good with bouncing between hotels, McDonald's and Starbucks getting work done. For STS-133, I bounced around for a week in November before the launch was finally scrubbed until late February.

Third, where do you want to the launch from? There are many options:
  1. The Press Site for Launch Complex 39 is the best spot but getting there requires press credentials or access via a NASA Tweetup event.  I was fortunate to be select to the NASA Tweetup for STS-132, which at the time was the final launch of Atlantis and this is by far the best place at 3 miles away.
  2. Almost equal to the press site is the Apollo / Saturn V Center.  It is also 3 miles away facing a different side of the pad but the viewing there would be spectacular.  I have not seen a launch from this site as it is reserved for specific NASA VIP's and astronaut family members.
  3. The best public viewing location is the NASA East Causeway.  Here you are 6 miles from the pad and have a mostly clear view over the water of the Banana River.  Some of the trees on the islands in the river may block a bit of your view of the pad but the shuttle isn't on the pad for long.  To get access here you have to be enter a ticket lottery with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Center and then if selected spend $76 per ticket.  Another way to get to the Causeway is to purchase tickets through Gray Line Tours or Florida Dolphin Tours.  They take you to the same place but cost a lot more.  My suggestion if you use a tour company is to select a pickup point in Melbourne, FL.  Otherwise, you will spend 5-9 hours on the bus after the launch in traffic going back to your drop off point in Orlando.  Here is another post I wrote how to get Causeway tickets and the differences between Green, Orange, and Purple.
  4. You can also view a launch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex itself.  You can't see the shuttle on the pad but you do see it a few seconds after liftoff.  They have big screen TV's around so you can see main engine start but you can't see anything until it clears the trees.  To get these tickets you also have to enter a lottery and they cost about $50 each.  You are 7 miles away at this location.
  5. The Astronaut Hall of Fame provides another viewing option however, you are 12 miles away, and you still can't see the launch until it clears the tree line.  Tickets for this location are also only available through the ticket lottery and cost around $50 each.
  6. Sometimes you can find private homes, condos or other property along the Indian River in Titusville that you can watch from.  These locations are between 12 and 14 miles away but many times you can see the shuttle stack sitting on the pad.  Don't trespass though if you don't have permissions from the property owners.  There are costs associated with these locations depending on condo rates and/or fees charged by the property owners.
  7. There are many public viewing sites along the Indian River like Space View Park and Rotary Park.  There are also some bridges in Titusville that would make for great viewing locations but are very crowded.  If you are going to a public location to save money, make sure you get there early.  Otherwise, parking could be a big problem.  Everyone gets a good view once the shuttle gets off the ground, but if you want great pics then the earlier you get to your viewing location the better chance you will have better shots.
Of course, before you can see a launch you have to get to the launch site.  I have never viewed driving as an option as it would take 20 hours or so each way.  I value my time more than that so I have always flown.  Here are a few tips for dealing with the airlines and shuttle launches:
  1. Determine your flexibility first.  If you have to come home on a certain day regardless of whether the launch happens or not then go ahead and purchase a round trip ticket so you can lock in the lowest possible fare.  If you do change your mind after purchasing your ticket, remember that all airlines except Southwest charge a change fee plus any difference in fare.  Southwest only charges you the difference in fare.
  2. If you don't have miles but you have some flexibility then consider booking one-way tickets.  Then once you are ready to leave after the launch or after it has been rescheduled, find the cheapest flight from Orlando and book it.  You sometimes pay a bit more here but if it isn't more than the change fee plus any fare differences then you have come out ahead.  This has never happened to me but I would hate to be there for the launch only to have it rescheduled for the day I had to fly home. So close and yet so far.
For rental cars and hotels, I use Hotwire and Priceline.  If I'm traveling by myself, I get the cheapest car I can find.  If I'm with a group I get a car large enough for our needs but understanding we are splitting the costs. 

I also am not picky on hotels.  I don't book more than one night at a time and I use Hotwire and Priceline to find the best deals.  Since I don't care whether I'm in a Motel 6 or a Marriott I pretty much take whatever comes up.  This does mean you are in a different hotel every night but it also means you save a lot of money.  Titusville, FL has very few hotel rooms so getting a cheap one is difficult around the launch date but if the date changes you can often find great last minute deals much closer to KSC.

Despite the best planning, there are no guarantees.  The key thing is how committed are you?  How many days are you willing to invest and how much money are you willing to spend.  Be sure to figure that out first.  Even with the best planning things change and you may not see anything.

I am working on plans to take a group to a private viewing location in Titusville.  This spot really works out well and provides a great view.  The only downside is the sound is not nearly as impressive since you are 12 miles away but it is the best place after the press site and Causeway locations.  If you are serious about attending a launch and are willing to invest some money, feel free to contact me.

You might also want to go ahead and enter the ticket lotteries with KSCVC.  If you are committed to going then it doesn't matter if you go to a private viewing site or you get Causeway tickets.  The number of tickets each person is limited to is 6.  If multiple people can get 6 Causeway tickets in the lottery then there is a better chance more folks going can see the launch closer.  The only downside is you would need to front the initial ticket purchase as you only have so many hours after being selected for tickets to make a purchase before your buying opportunity expires.  If you get stuck with too many tickets there is always eBay.

These trips unravel quickly if many people express interest only to back out after being pressed to commit both time and money.  Make those commitments now to make every one's planning a bit easier.

Here's to a successful final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS 135!  Wait, I've heard that before at STS 132.

Monday, May 23, 2011

An Endeavor, Day 8, May 18, 2011

Unfortunately, every shuttle launch viewing trip has to come to an end. Even though it was over this one was special. We got to see a very unique launch with the shadow on the clouds, we got to walk to the north barrier, and we had beautiful weather for viewing the SRB recovery ships returning to port. Plus I was able to bring my dad along to share in the fun.

We had different flights home as dad and Twitterless Ted had already booked their return flights while I waited to see if the launch happened or not. I was prepared to hang around again until it went up. I’m so glad it happened on schedule otherwise we would have spent the time waiting around instead of checking things out.

My flight left at 7:30am and this is where we parted company. The two old men were heading home to have brunch and take naps. What a life. I on the other hand landed in Indy at 11:30am, was picked up by Joe and Donnie (I knew they would work themselves into this story somehow), and then attended a VMware Users Group Meeting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The weather didn’t allow them to run any cars while we were there but I wasn’t complaining considering all I had seen over the last few days. The only thing I did complain about was the weather. I left sunny and 85 for raining and 56.

All the planning had paid off and it’s still hard to believe the trip is over. We have now started making plans for STS-135, the final launch of the Space Shuttle program and the final launch of humans into space by the United States for the foreseeable future. This is the end of a 30-year era. I’m even toying with taking our 6 year old along, as I know he would really enjoy it. Justin and I are also talking about taking a trip to Russia to see a Soyuz launch as after STS-135 that will be the only place you can see a NASA astronaut launched into space.

The feedback I’ve received online from the STS-134 trip has been incredible so I’ll do what I can to post options and tips so others can share in the best launch viewing experience possible for STS-135.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

An Endeavor, Day 7, May 17, 2011

Day 7 started a good 12 hours after Day 6 ended. Exhaustion is all part of a shuttle launch trip experience but we all felt much better having gotten a good night sleep after a very crazy Sunday and Monday.

One of the many blessings of an on-time launch is the extra time you have to explore the Space Coast a bit without trying to see the next launch attempt. Unfortunately, Justin had to head home so we hung around Orlando for a bit and then took him to the airport. I took the crew to the B-52 Park I stumbled upon during my last trip, we grabbed lunch, and then we dropped off Justin. As you read the rest of this, it is important to note that Justin missed a lot.

We left the airport in Orlando to head for the Canaveral National Seashore. We had read there were some great spots for viewing Pads 39 A & B plus Pad 41 so we wanted to check them out. We also knew that you could walk the beach to the north security barrier of KSC and get some even closer views of the 2 iconic launch pads. My GPS was having a hard time routing us there, as most of the roads in the area are restricted so I looked it up on Google. Turns out that beach happens to be a popular spot with those who prefer to bath in the buff. While nude sunbathing is illegal in Brevard County there is some dispute over whether those laws apply on federal land. Now things were going to be interesting.

When we got to the guard shack, I asked the guard about the nudist population in the area. He told me to put my camera away as if we saw anything it was only going to be some beached whales with tattoos. We headed into the park and stopped at the various lookout points towards the launch pads. I have been to both pads but this was just as much fun as it required no security, no background checks, and I could stay as long as I wanted.

We arrived at the beach and prepared for the 1-mile walk down to the barrier. The tide had just gone out so it was an easy walk. When we got to the barrier, the guards let us walk up the ramp to their guardhouse so we could get some better pictures. We hung out for a bit and then headed back. It was a beautiful day as the sea was calm the breeze was cooling, and there were no nude people on the beach.

In case you’re wondering, you can’t watch a launch from the beach. The entire area is closed 3 days prior to launch and if you did somehow manage to hide out the shockwave from the launch would probably kill you or at least mess you up pretty bad.

We left the Canaveral National Seashore and headed towards Port Canaveral. We had found out on Twitter and through a reporter friend of Twitterless Ted that the SRB (Solid Rocket Boosters) were coming back into Port Canaveral that night. This is something I have always wanted to see but their arrival varies almost as much as a launch date due to many factors so I had not been able to see this on my other trips to Florida.

We arrived at Jetty Park in time to see the first recovery ship entering the channel. The view was great as we watched the first ship come in and then 45 minutes later watched the second ship come in as the sun was setting. We got a lot of pictures and video and then left the park to see if we could find another spot that would allow us to take pictures of the ships and SRBs docked for the night. They were going to continue through the locks on their way back to KSC the next morning. After a bit of driving around we found a great spot to get some shots of the ships and SRBs in their slips. Playing with some settings on my camera, I got some pretty good pictures, in my own humble and unbiased opinion.

By this time, it was close to 9pm and we had to be at the airport at 6am the next morning for our flights home. So we left Port Canaveral and headed back to Orlando to prepare for the trip home.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

An Endeavor, Day 6, May 16, 2011

This day began a short 3 hours after the last day ended. I was hoping for a few more hours of sleep but after some discussion agreed, we should leave at 3am to avoid any traffic issues. We grabbed our sack breakfasts, drove across the street to pick up Justin Moore, a church IT friend from northern Indiana, and headed for our Indian River viewing location.

Part of the traffic discussion was my contention that there wouldn't be any and we could sleep a bit longer. Of course, I was right and there was no traffic but I am glad we arrived when we did as we got a great spot right on the banks of the Indian River with a clear view of pad 39A and the VAB.

The view was awesome! The pad illuminated in the Xenon lights, the clear night sky, and a beautiful sunrise with the planets Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Mars clearly in view. We even got to see the helicopter that escorts the AstroVan as it flew with them to the pad. All the while, we were watching NASA TV on or iPads.

Over the next several hours, we watched the sunrise, the Shuttle Training Aircraft testing the weather doing touch and go landings, and even an inflight refueling of 2 Blackhawks helicopters. The clouds would come and the clouds would go, almost as though they were toying with the launch commit criteria and us. 

About 30 minutes to launch the sky was clear and we thought we were going to see the entire ascent. However, as we got closer to launch time the clouds again moved in and were within 500 feet from violating the criteria needed to remain go for launch. The clouds stayed above 5500 feet and at 8:56am, Space Shuttle Endeavor launched on STS 134. 

After 20 seconds, the shuttle slipped through the clouds and was out of sight. About 75 seconds after launch, the sound wave hit and we were able to hear the shuttle even though we could not see it.
At first, I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to see the entire ascent but these clouds did have a silver lining. The thin cloud cover combined with the position of the sun cast a shadow across the top of the clouds of the con trail as the shuttle ascended. This provided a unique once-in-a-lifetime view of the shuttle launch appearing as a shadow growing across the clouds. This shadow more than made up for the fact that we didn’t see more than 20 seconds of the launch. And we weren’t the only ones who didn’t see the full launch, those at the Press Site and Causeway also only saw about 20 seconds.  

As the shadow dissipated, we began to pack up our stuff and head out for the rest of our day. It took us about 30 minutes to reach a McDonald’s 2 miles away so we could grab some breakfast and caffeine. Then we headed to KSCVC where we met up with a friend from the STS 132 launch and toured the Apollo / Saturn V Center, watched the IMAX movies, rode the Space Shuttle Launch Experience, walked around the Rocket Garden, and shopped a bit in the Space Store.

Even though we were pretty wiped out when the Visitor’s Center closed at 6pm we still had enough energy left for dinner at the best seafood restaurant in Titusville, Dixie Crossroads.

After dinner, we headed back to Orlando and some much needed sleep. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Endeavor, Day 5, May 15, 2011

At long last our second attempt to see STS 134 arrived. Of course the day arrived on our 12th wedding anniversary but NASA did not take that into consideration when picking the new launch date. I should take this opportunity to express my gratitude to my wife as this is the second year in a row I have been gone on our wedding anniversary for a shuttle launch. Last year I was at the NASA Tweetup for STS 132.

The day started with a full set of ministry at Faith including an unscripted moment where I had a fake cigarette on stage. Sometimes you just never know what is going to happen.

My dad, our friend Ted and I left shortly thereafter to head for the airport in Indy and begin our trip.

Compared to my last trip this trip was wonderfully uneventful. We left IND on time and arrived early into Ft. Myers. We flew to RSW as it was significantly cheaper than flying into Orlando. The rental car pickup was smooth and we were quickly on our way to a hotel near the Orlando airport.

We made excellent time as Sunday evening traffic was very light. I would say bringing my dad and Ted was a good luck charm but let's wait and see when and if we launch. As we all know getting there is only half the battle.

We checked into the hotel for 3 hours of sleep.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Comcast is Killing Me

I’m a big fan of technology improving our lives however, it seems I may be in the minority with that opinion.

Comcast is the largest providers of cable TV, voice, and data services in the country. One would think a company of that size would have the latest and greatest to offer their customers. Due to the recent digital TV transition, I’m finding that not to be the case. The issue is not the digital TV transition. I’m all for that. The problem stems from their application of this new digital technology.

Up until now, I have received my basic cable channels (over-the-air networks, public access, etc.) in an analog format and then our additional premium channels (Food Network, History, NatGeo, Discovery, etc.) in a digital format. For DVR’s we use 2 Series 2 analog TiVo’s. This has worked well, even though we have a digital cable box and a TiVo we are able to record multiple channels at a time and we are able to transfer programs between TiVo’s so regardless of which TiVo records the show we can watch it anywhere. The only limitation is with the digital channels as we are limited to a single digital tuner per TiVo but since some of our channels are analog, this hasn’t been an issue. We also have full access to Comcast’s On-Demand system.

Starting June 25 all our channels will be digital, which makes our analog TiVo’s a bit of a problem. I contacted Comcast to see what our options are and was sorely disappointed. Here are the details in case this will help anyone else deal with the Comcast machine.
  1. I could purchase new digital TiVo’s. This would allow me to keep the same TiVo software and functionality we like, provide us with dual digital tuners per DVR, and allow us to continue sharing programs regardless of where they were recorded. The downside here is we would lose On-Demand and would have to pay for the TiVo’s upfront. We would also have to rent Cablecards from Comcast in order to access the digital channels via the TiVo’s. 
  2. We could get Comcast DVR’s. This would cost us more per month as we have to rent the DVR’s and we would lose our wonder TiVo software. We would gain dual tuner DVR’s and full access to On-Demand but we would lose the ability to transfer shows between rooms. So if we records The Office in the basement but we want to watch it in the bedroom we wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. When I discussed with the Comcast Executive Office the guy I talked to has 4 DVR’s and said he would really like this feature but Comcast has no plans to offer it. Comcast uses Motorola DVR’s and according to their website the DVR’s are capable of doing this but for some absurd reason Comcast disables this function.
  3. Comcast offers an Anyroom DVR system that allows you to record shows in one room and watch them in another, sort of. This system, costing about the same as a couple of normal DVR’s, provides you with a hub unit that you records all your shows on and then station units that allow you to watch what has been recorded on the hub unit. While this might seem like a solution, it does have a few problems. First, you only get access to On-Demand on the hub unit and not any of the stations. Second, you only have DVR capabilities on the hub unit, you can’t pause live TV on the remote stations.
Since none of these options provides what we want I contact Comcast via Twitter and was put in touch with their Executive Offices. That proved a dead end as they told me the same thing I already knew, these are the choices and we can’t do anything about it. Again, it baffles me that a company the size of Comcast can’t do any better than this.

My options are to pick one of the 3 choices above and get happy with what I’m giving up or leave Comcast and go to a satellite TV provider. If for whatever reason you have read this far what do you think? What are your experiences with Comcast? Am I the only one that thinks being able to watch a program on any DVR regardless of where you recorded it is a big deal? TiVo makes it easy by sharing between DVR’s on your home network. Why Comcast disables this is beyond me.

The clock is ticking, we have to do something by June 25th and right now, I’m not sure what that will be.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Stop Cramming HTTPS Down My Throat!

I’m all for secure web browsing but before you nag me to switch to it on Twitter and Facebook why don’t you make sure it works properly. After a bit of research here’s what I know about using HTTPS for Twitter and Facebook. Both websites let you pick HTTPS as an option however, both are far from perfect in terms of what you give up in the name of security. Almost sounds like the fight against terrorism.

If you opt for HTTPS here are a few issues:

  1. HTTPS requires you to login every time you access Twitter after closing your web browser. This issue takes a while to pop up as cookies expire but once it starts, you can’t stop it. Anytime you load the Twitter website you have to login. If you leave your browser open and you use a sharing link on another website then it will log you in fine but if you close your browser, you will have to login again. This can be a real pain if you use the Tweet link on other websites, as you will have to login each time.
  2. Not all Twitter clients use HTTPS anyway so while your computer browser will use that protocol other apps on your computer or smartphone might not so you are only securing one point of entry.
  3. The Twitter mobile website requires you to manually enter HTTPS in order to access it from a mobile phone. While the HTTPS setting allows you to default from HTTP to HTTPS that only works on a computer browser, it does not work on a mobile browser.
  1. The same deal is true here. HTTPS does not allow you to save credentials past a cookie expiration so after a while you will have to login to Facebook each time you access the site or use a sharing link from another site.  
  2. Same deal here too, not all Facebook clients use HTTPS so you are only security one point of access.
  3. I’m not sure about the mobile site, as I didn’t test this.
  4. There are several features that don’t work when using HTTP:
    • Videos do not play.
    • Some pictures will not appear.
    • You can’t use the new picture uploader that allows you to upload an unlimited number of pictures at a time. Instead, you have to use the old updated that only allows you to upload 5 pictures at a time after you browse to individually select each one.
    • It won’t print coupons or event tickets.
Again, I’m all for a more secure browsing experience but I’m not willing to give up the experience itself in favor of security. That defeats the purpose. Am I worried about people snooping on my password while I’m at Starbucks and Panera? A little. I figure my iPhone’s connection with these websites is much more of a vulnerability as it is on all the time whereas my laptop connection is only when I launch the apps or browse to the websites.
If these websites want me and everyone else to use HTTPS because it is a more secure connection that will cut down on identity theft, SPAM, etc. then they have to make sure the only difference is HTTPS and not HTTPS that lacks many features of HTTP. Until then, I’m going back to HTTP so I can better enjoy the experience and use these sites to their fullest capability.

Monday, May 9, 2011

An Endeavor, May 9, 2011

Today NASA announced next launch attempt of STS-134 will be Monday, May 16 at 8:56am. I started planning and am grateful I can return for this launch attempt, even if it will mean a bit of extra travel. Flying to Orlando or anywhere on the east coast of Florida was a bit pricey. So, our group will be flying into Ft. Myers. Group you say? Yes. I’m excited that I’ll be taking my dad with me this time as he has never seen a shuttle launch.

Our group is flying to Ft. Myers and then will be leaving from Orlando after the launch.

Here’s hoping for a successful launch on Monday, May 16!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Medal of Honor

Friday was one of those days at work that makes me grateful I serve at Faith. I enjoy variety and Faith provides a lot of variety in ministry. Friday we were honored to host the Medal of Honor Bridge Dedication Ceremony. There was a lot about this I didn’t understand as we were planning for this event. I did know that a UH-1 Huey helicopter was going to be landing in our parking lot with the Medal of Honor recipients and figured I would want to see that. It turned out to be so much more than just a helicopter landing.

What is the Medal of Honor? According to the internet, “The Medal of Honor was established in 1862 and first presented in 1863 during the Civil War. It is the highest military decoration that the United States grants to members of its armed forces for bravery in action at the risk of his or her life, above and beyond the call of duty. It is awarded by the president in the name of Congress. The Army, Navy, and Air Force each have their own designs for the Medal of Honor. Included with the Navy are the Marine Corps and Coast Guard.”

3,475 Medal of Honor awards have been issued and only 85 recipients are alive today. 7 of them were at Faith on Friday, May 6, 2011. Now I was beginning to see the significance of the event.

Aside from the helicopter flying in the Lafayette Fire Department setup a huge American Flag, the Department of Homeland Security provided security sweeps and protection for the guests; there were soldiers, policeman and fireman in uniform all over, schoolchildren, almost all of our elected state and local officials, and a veteran’s motorcycle parade. Saying that flags were everywhere would be an understatement.

All of this to dedicate the first and only bridge in the United States to all Medal of Honor recipients. Most Medal of Honor recipients receive their awards posthumously. Having 7 of them, including the last surviving recipient from WWII dedicate this bridge was impressive. The bridge is north of Lafayette on a new stretch of road called the Hoosier Heartland Corridor. It almost seems as though we didn’t do enough once you hear these guys’ stories.

There aren’t many days you go to work and a helicopter lands in your parking lot, 10% of the surviving Medal of Honor recipients come to visit, and you have a small part in helping make a bit of history.

More information about the Medal of Honor can be found here:
Congressional Medal of Honor Society
Wikipedia entry for Medal of Honor
Local newspaper coverage of the event

Monday, May 2, 2011

Oh Canada

This is a long shot but what do I have to lose? On Friday, I met two guys from Canada at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center for the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor on STS-134. I needed a place to sit and eat lunch and they agreed to share their table with me. We were chatting about the launch scrub when a girl walked by selling two purple launch viewing tickets. Purple tickets are not available for purchase and can only be acquired by knowing a member of the shuttle crew. She told us the astronaut her family knew and said they couldn’t stay for the launch and wanted to sell the tickets.

My new friends were not sure so I explained to them what the purple tickets were and that they would get to view the launch from the causeway VIP section as guests of the crew. The girl wanted $100 per ticket but she would not split them up. They were going to purchase them but I cautioned them not to buy the tickets unless she had a car pass. She did so they purchased the two purple tickets and the car pass.

They got a great deal and soon after had to leave to catch their bus back to the hotel. We did not exchange information but I know they had to leave Monday so I’m not sure if they were going to be able to use the tickets or not. 

I’m hoping the right people will stumble on this via Google indexing and be able to put me in touch with these guys. They were staying at the Double Tree, used Gray Line Tours for their tickets and one was from Alberta and the other from Ontario. If you know these guys please have them contact me using any of the methods on this blog. I think I have a good use for their tickets if they can’t use them. If they can use them then I hope to meet up with them again.

Common internet, work your magic. Thank you very much.

May 1 is a Deadly Day

What a day this has been.  Not 10 minutes after I posted Day 4 of my recent trip to see the attempted launch of STS-134 I noticed Twitter lighting up with posts about Osama Bin Laden being killed.  I flipped the TV to CNN and sure enough, we got him!

Watching Twitter was much more informative and entertaining than watching any of the news networks.  One of the facts that came across was that Hitler was also captured, having already killed himself, on May 1, 1945.

Twitter provided many comments on welcoming Osama to the eternal hot place, how we found him due to the iPhone tracking db, how his hacked PlayStation account led us to him, and how this event brings closure to many who lost loved ones on 9/11.

I'm glad we got him but in many ways this is the beginning and not the end.  Terrorism will continue and we will still have to be vigilant against it.

We owe a huge debt to those in our armed forces who carried out not only this mission but dangerous missions every day as they protect us.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

An Endeavor, Day 4, May 1, 2011

Today was a day that was never supposed to happen. In the ideal world, we would have launched Friday and this story would have ended Saturday with me back home giving the kids their space presents.

This is my third launch viewing attempt and only one of the three has gone according to plan. The launch of Atlantis on STS-132 while I was at the NASA Tweetup went as scheduled. The other 2 have had major delays. These are the consequences for not inviting me back to the subsequent Tweetup events. That or human space flight is risky business and this is just how it goes.

The day started with me watching the various news feeds to see what was going to happen. There was a press conference scheduled for 10:30am but I was hoping to find out more sooner so I could make plans to get home. By 9:30am it was clear they were not launching on Monday so I put a flight on hold to head home Sunday afternoon. 

By 9:4am the story changed again. The 10:30am press conference had been shifted to early afternoon and they were not going to announce another no-earlier-than launch attempt date until tomorrow. I knew I could go home as the likely hood of a launch anytime this week was slim.

I grabbed the last seat on an AirTran non-stop flight to IND and packed up to head back to the airport. One of the many gambles on a shuttle launch trip are the ground costs and as you know Thrifty car rental has been a bit screwy. I got a great rate; I paid $8.96 a day to drive a Premium car. The catch is that if you return it early they charge you a $15 fee. They don’t charge you for the days you don’t use but they do charge you a stupid $15 early return fee. While I still saved a ton of money I did return my rental car early and paid the fee. All part of the risky business of attempting to view humans launching into space on rockets.

Getting home was a milestone of sorts as it was my last flight on AirTran. Our captain welcomed us to Indianapolis, told us the current temperature was 20 degrees, Celsius, and then said he would normally invite us back on another AirTran flight however starting tomorrow AirTran becomes Southwest. AirTran has always been good to me.

I’ll be watching the news from Kennedy Space Center closely and we’ll see how things turn out.

To be continued, I’m sure……..