Watching the Last Space Shuttle Launch From Cape Canaveral

I still want to be an astronaut. Since I started school at Miami I’ve wanted to make the trip to Kennedy to see a shuttle launch, but it wasn’t until after I graduated that I actually did it- and just in time, because I caught the final shuttle launch and with NASAs funds being cut, there won’t be a new type of space vehicle to look forward to for a long, long time. For now, our American astronauts are going up as guests in the Russian capsules. I’ll add that to my to-see list when I’m in Russia for the 2014 Olympics.

My friend and I were informed that there would be up to a million people crowding the roads and campsites trying to get a final glimpse, so we took the hint and hunted out a parking space in the week before the launch. We found a great spot that was recommended by a local. Outside of the car, though, we were attacked by mosquitoes so we didn’t stay long. But that was our spot and we decided to park there Thursday afternoon and have a prime spot for the launch Friday morning.

Astronaut ice cream & improve mosquito netting in the background

We loaded up on snacks- fruit leather, tortilla chips and salsa, caramels, Lara bars, pasta salad, and of course freeze-dried ice cream. (Which is amazing, by the way.) When we arrived at our spot Thursday and parked, there were very few cars- they were coming and going, but there were a bunch of trailers parked for the night. My first order of business was to tape some fabric that we had gotten for a few dollars from Joann’s to the inside of the windows as some improve mosquito netting. It was raining a bit but we had to keep the windows down or the windows down or we would overheat in just a few minutes- which is why no other cars spent the night. The other cars started showing up around 2 in the morning and all through the night and into the morning afterwards.

Spending the night in a car isn’t fun. Don’t do it if you don’t have to. It was cramped and sitting still for an entire night (I tried to leave the car to go to the bathroom in the woods- I couldn’t do it. There were so many mosquitoes that I just ran around and swatted frantically and even though I never stood still, I counted 16 bites the next morning.) But, we were able to get cozy and watch Spirited Away, which I had seen many times before but my friend hadn’t. Then bed time.

When we awoke, the lot was full with people walking around excitedly. It seemed the mosquitoes were gone so we had breakfast and walked around for a bit before the launch. There were people standing on top of their trailers, people with telescopes and binoculars, people who had set up stands to sell fruit, there were shuttle launch-watching veterans explaining to the newbies where to look on the horizon, and fat tourists with their Hawaiian shirts buttoned incorrectly. A few news crews were there, and there were a few trucks blasting the NASA radio station so we could all hear Mission Control.

We walked to a little strip of beach- more like a sandbox dock, and sat with our feet dangling over the side until launch time. When it neared 11:26, I got too excited to sit and stood up, and soon we heard from a nearby truck 10.98 and the whole crowd joined the countdown. 321

Thank you NASA for an amazing space age and good luck in the future, I hope we go to the moon again in my lifetime.