The first order of business was getting to the VAB - This building
, for anyone unfamiliar. Originally designed to assemble the massive Saturn V rocket, it is one of the largest buildings in the world by volume. After the Apollo program ended, the shuttle program moved in. The building easily dwarfed the size of a stacked shuttle, which was only half the height of a Saturn V. This is where Atlantis was lifted
and mated to the external tank and solid rocket boosters for the last time back in May.
We board a bus at about 8:30 and drive over to one of the security gates at the VAB. After a bit of a delay we're let through and dropped off by a door. We're led inside and take a walk down the transfer aisle, stopping at an elevator across from High Bay 4 (Where a certain somebody was looking lonely
). We pile in, but it takes two trips to get everyone. This elevator goes to the 36th floor. From there, we have to transfer to a smaller elevator that goes to the 42nd floor - The roof, some 500 feet up.
That NASA UH-1 I've seen on so many previous launches is now flying below
us. From here we'll have the best unobstructed view of the launch.
1. The Crawlerway and Pad 39A.
2. The subject of today's adventure, Mars Science Laboratory aboard an Atlas V at SLC-41. 200mm here.
3. And 600mm here (That's not sensor dust, that's a helicopter from Patrick AFB).
4. Liftoff! Right on time, 10:02 AM. VAB perspective, 600mm.
5. Looking good.
Now, how did those remotes do? This is the nerve wracking part, waiting for the go to return to the pad and find out what went wrong. Did it rain and soak the lens? Did the trigger fail? Was the camera blown away?
When we return to the pad, the smell of the SRB exhaust is still in the air. The liquid oxygen tank is still bleeding off, leaving a splash of snow on the ground. Lots of debris
has been tossed downrange of the flame trench, ranging from foam to concrete, and the grass has all been swept in one direction
, like a giant comb had gone through it.
As it turns out, none of those horrible things happened to the remotes, and for the first time they all performed flawlessly.
Remote camera #1 - 24mm on Rebel XT. Slight crop on #6.
Remote camera #2 - 18mm on 30D. Kit lens, again!