Sunday, May 29, 2011

Long exposures of space station flyovers next to moon, Big Dipper

I was covering this country music concert for the newspaper when I took this shot. I cut out the stage on the right side of the frame because it was simply too bright and overexposed.

I'm catching up on posting photos, and these two are a few of the most spectacular sights I've captured recently -- aside from my pretty girlfriend when she wasn't looking.

Two days in a row in April -- the 16th and the 17th -- there were lengthy, five-minute flyovers of the International Space Station at dusk.

For the first, above, I was at the Runaway Country Space Coast Music Fest at Wickham Park, a half-mile from my apartment in Melbourne. This is just a few minutes of the entire flyover, as the station passed right in front of the moon. A lot of the drunken country fans were wondering what the heck I was doing as I looked at the sky. Once I pointed out the spaceship, they oohed and aahed.

The second was taken on a street in Rockledge, near a friend's house. This is perhaps the best photograph I've snapped of a flyover for two reasons: It shows my brand-new vehicle, and the Big Dipper appears quite brilliantly.

Look at my car! Ain't it pretty?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Clouds shroud view of Endeavour launch -- yet again

I set my iPhone on the grass and let it record the launch.

This is my only decent shot of Endeavour before it hit the clouds.

These altocumulus clouds were so low that the people at the Launch Complex 39 press site only had a few moments to watch Endeavour. The most interesting part was how the sun shining against the contrail cast a shadow onto the top of the cloud deck.

This panorama shows how the arcing contrail was mirrored onto the top of the mackerel sky.

Even though I was close -- 3 miles from the launch pad -- shuttle Endeavour lifted off and disappeared above a thick cloud deck.

For the previous shuttle launch, I was 40 miles south when I saw a few seconds of fire from Discovery's rocket boosters, then nothing. People watching at Kennedy Space Center, however, saw the whole eight-minute show.

This time, the people 40 miles to the south saw the whole thing while I -- stationed at the closest possible viewing location -- once again received only a few seconds of joy.

But I should be comforted by the knowledge that most people have never and will never get the opportunity to get as close to the shuttle that I did during the NASA "tweetup."

I took several shots before the launch, including this one of a nearly full moon setting behind the CBS News building at the press site.

These were fellow participants in the NASA tweetup who had attended the scrubbed launch attempt in late April. That's when the astronauts were headed to the launch pad and did a U-turn in their Astrovan after officials declared an electrical problem on Endeavour.

Astronauts waved to the tweeps.

Venus and Jupiter rose on the eastern horizon just before the sun started to come up.

The launch pad was illuminated through dawn, with some thick clouds far offshore.

With this photo, I tried to show the brilliance of Endeavour's launch pad and the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter, which are reflected on the water.

This body of water, of course, is the known as the Turn Basin.

The countdown went well, and Endeavour lifted off.

One of the tweeps used an iPad to take pictures of the liftoff, which gave me a chuckle.

With clouds obstructing our view of Endeavour, I just took photos of the clouds that Endeavour made.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RSS rollback for space shuttle Endeavour better than launch

Click on the image for a panaroma of the scene at the "tweetup" of the RSS rollback.

As we were being bused away from the launch pad, we briefly stopped at a spot where we got a full-frontal view of the shuttle. Pretty amazing.

Not many members of the public have had the chance to see Endeavour like this. And nobody ever will again, sadly.

NASA invited back 150 Twitter users, including yours truly, after an electrical issue forced a scrub of space shuttle Endeavour's launch attempt in late April.

On May 15, the day before the launch, about 80 of the "tweeps" who returned were bused to launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, where they got a closeup view of the shuttle as its rotating service structure was rolled back.

NASA roped off an area of grass a few hundred yards from the launch pad, and the "tweetup" participants had more than hour to gawk at the spaceship on the eve of its final liftoff.

I took lots of photos -- probably too many.

The tweeps.

A NASA plane carrying Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, wife of mission commander Mark Kelly, circles the launch pad as it arrives from Houston. About the same time, Giffords' staff snapped a photo of the pad and posted it on Twitter.

The "beanie cap."

RSS rollback beginning.

I took so many photos that I don't have the energy to make captions for each one...

web_tweet_0040 just look at them.




Fuel tanks.


Media photographers had their remote cameras set up nearby.

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls took photos of the tweeps from the top of his car.

The pad's lightning-protection system.

This astronaut figurine was part of the gift bag NASA gave to the tweeps.

The roped-off area was just outside the fence around the pad.


A tweep trying to lean against the shuttle.


That's me in those sunglasses.

Tweeps had fun with different poses in front of the pad.

The yoga pose.

This tweep was doing a time lapse of the rollback and/or cloud progression behind the shuttle.

Line of tweeps.

The pad's spotlights.

More remote cameras.


You can really appreciate Endeavour's size when compared with launch pad workers.

Stephanie Schierholz, the NASA public affairs worker who served as the tweetup's main organizer.


Some small cactuses were growing on the tweetup stomping grounds.

Our guide.

Getting back on the bus.

These full-on shots were taken through a bus window.


Tweeps on the bus.

One last shot from the moving bus.