Monday, February 10, 2020

Day 3700

At 12:01 this morning I was packing up my camera gear 526 feet above Kennedy Space Center on the roof of the Vertical Assembly Building. I had just witnessed the launch of an Atlas 5 rocket that will carry the ESA Solar Orbiter toward a rendezvous with the sun. It was a beautiful night for a spectacular launch. I could hardly believe where I was standing. Only fifteen photographers were granted access to the VAB roof for this launch and I was one of them. To say this was a bucket list moment would be an understatement.

There aren't many people who routinely cover rocket launches. The photographers on the roof with me early this morning all knew each other long before this launch. Some had been covering space ever since the Apollo program. With such a small tight knit group, I was immediately recognized as a newcomer. I wasn't ostracized though. These guys couldn't have been nicer. They shared stories with me and gave me tips on how to get the best photos during a launch. I immediately felt welcomed.

Photographing rockets at night is more of an art than a science. It is dark and it is hard to check your camera settings. When the countdown reaches zero, things start to happen so fast that there are no second chances. You either get the shot or you don't. I was amazed that my photos came out as well as they did, because I didn't bring a tripod on this trip. Luckily, there was a heavy steel rail around the edge of the roof. I placed my camera on this rail and held it firmly in place. I'm glad I didn't drop it.

When I returned to Orlando this morning I was pretty sure that the airport would be on the rental car's  list of "recent destinations" in the GPS menu. Orlando International Airport was on the list, but it wasn't until I reached my destination that I realized that the person who rented this car earlier wasn't headed for the rental car return. I blindly followed the GPS and wound up at a Southwest Airlines maintenance facility in an obscure corner of the airport. When I tried to find my way back to the rental car return, I became hopelessly lost. Since I was off the beaten path, there were no signs to the rental car area. I found myself going round and round in circles with no place to stop and get my bearings. For a while I was afraid I would miss my flight, but I eventually stopped to ask someone for directions. I made the flight.

When I got on the plane I discovered that I was sitting next to someone who had also gone to the NASA Social event. This was really a strange coincidence. We both agreed that the launch was amazing  and were determined to come back to the Space Center again. I could easily become a launch rat. Going to these events can become addictive.

We had a new houseguest when I returned home. Dawn is settling in very well. I wasn't a bit surprised when Janet told me she was already sleeping on the bed. Dawn's injuries were serious but we think she will make a full recovery. The vet thinks they will be able to remove the drainage tube in her neck by Wednesday. I hope everything goes smoothly. Dawn is such a sweet dog.

Landry is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day