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.