Monday, May 11, 2009

Shooting the moon, but looking forward to shooting a shuttle

The nearly full moon in partly cloudy skies over Central Florida. Click on the image for a high-resolution version.

Just hours from now, I will wake up and make the 40-minute drive to Titusville, across the river from NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

This is the first opportunity I have had to arrive about five hours early to Space View Park, which has the closest nonpaid direct viewing area of launch pad 39A, from which shuttle Atlantis is set to lift off at 2:01 p.m. For each launch, thousands of people crowd the park that's about 15 miles from the pad. My intent is to get there before most everyone, snag a prime viewing spot along the Indian River and wait for the launch.

In tow will be my new Nikon D90 and 150-500mm Sigma lens, both of which I purchased for the main reason of photographing shuttle and rocket launches from KSC. I also will have my tripods and video camera, as well as a few books and magazines to keep me occupied during the wait.

Spectators will get the pleasure of watching the shuttle arc from left to right. On missions to the International Space Station, the trail goes from right to left when seen from Space View Park. But because this risky mission is to the Hubble Space Telescope, we'll be in for a different sight.

Astronaut John Grunsfeld, who was involved in planning the Hubble repair mission when Columbia broke up during re-entry, wants to use the telescope to photograph the moon. (See that story on FLORIDA TODAY's Web site.) So, in honor of that, I shot the moon just moments ago.

T-minus 12 hours and counting.

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