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  Viewing the last of the space shuttle launches (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Viewing the last of the space shuttle launches
dom
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posted 12-31-2009 12:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Which of 2010s Shuttle launch dates seem the most "fixed" at the moment? I'm trying to arrange a holiday to Florida to see one of the final launches in person before it's too late!

If you were a betting man, which of the launches do you think is least likely to 'slip' from its advertised date?

tegwilym
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posted 12-31-2009 02:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm seriously considering the February launch. How long before the launch do they usually sell the tickets? Usually seems about a month or so, but I figure they are all on holiday break right now. I'm just waiting for the email, so I can wake up early and try to get a ticket at 6am (9am EST). Seems they sell out in just a few minutes?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-31-2009 02:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, launch viewing tickets go on sale about a month before launch (the visitor complex's website currently notes that "STS-130 Space Shuttle Endeavour launch tickets go on sale in January").

As far as the "most fixed," I would have to say STS-130 in February only because it is the next in line, but even its launch date is subject to change up until the Flight Readiness Review. There are too many variables in play to predict if the other four will stay on or around their target dates.

tegwilym
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posted 12-31-2009 08:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
As far as the "most fixed," I would have to say STS-130 in February only because it is the next in line...
I would think the weather would be a little calmer this time of year too. Less thunderstorms maybe? Then again this will be after 4am, so maybe (hopefully) that is a calm time to fly too. Not an expert in Florida weather though.

I'm just thinking what might be positive ideas for a solid date since I need to see another one fly!

Jay Chladek
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posted 01-01-2010 01:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My advice on trying to see a launch is to either book A LOT of time in the area to cover potential delays or keep your itinerary flexible and set up the ability to cancel and rescedule at a moment's notice if a delay does occur. I wouldn't try to "bet" on a launch for certain going off when you expect it to, as such to do this at short notice, you have to plan accordingly.

One friend of mine from the UK for STS-114 essentially booked a whole month in Florida and he needed that time too as the ECO sensor issue forced a major delay. As such, while I was unable to see the bird fly, he got to and as a bonus his wife came down for the last couple weeks and she got to see it go. I was successful for STS-121 though.

Concerning the second option, naturally this means you probably won't be able to book economical flight prices if you want the ticket price to be refunded if you have to reschedule. But even Southwest Airlines at their most expensive is still very economical by comparison. Hotels fill up fast as well, but there are plenty of spots if you know where to look (and aren't too picky about ammenities). As such, don't just try for hotels in Titusville or Cocoa Beach. The surrounding communities such as Cocoa and others have some good deals too. But traffic management will be an issue on launch day.

As for getting tickets, it is probably worse right now then getting rock concert tickets as when they go on sale, they sell out LIGHTNING fast normally. With this being the final scheduled year of shuttle operations, it could be worse. Even if you can't get a ticket to be on KSC though, there are plenty of good vantage points in the area to watch from (Titusville being the closest, due west of the pad).

My final bit of advice is if you can, DO IT! I still smile when I think back to my launch experience as it was worth it to do, even though I did manage to screw up my job security in the process. Seeing a shuttle launch in person IMHO is probably the single most exciting thing somebody who isn't an astronaut can do. Plus the view of the event is prettier too (can't see much strapped inside the vehicle).

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-03-2010 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
As for getting tickets, it is probably worse right now then getting rock concert tickets as when they go on sale, they sell out LIGHTNING fast normally.
With that in mind, it is probably worth noting that the ticketing process has been changed for 2010:
Due to the expected retirement of the space shuttle in 2010, an increased interest in space shuttle launches has created a higher demand for NASA Causeway tickets. These tickets are limited in quantity. The following changes have been made to the ticketing system in order to handle an increasing volume of interest around this particular ticket:
  1. A new virtual waiting room will open at 8:45 a.m. ET - guests can enter any time between 8:45 a.m. and 8:59 a.m. ET. The time of entry into the waiting room does not give any priority to NASA Causeway tickets.

  2. Launch ticket sales will begin at 9:00 a.m. ET - guests will be randomly selected to proceed to the ticket selection page. Entry into the waiting room does not guarantee you NASA Causeway tickets.

  3. A Captcha verification will be used to reduce the impact of automated systems.
Tickets, a vehicle placard and a launch information sheet will be shipped via Fed Ex. Print-at-home tickets are not currently available. Your shipping address must match the billing address on your credit card statement. We cannot ship to a P.O. Box.

tegwilym
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posted 01-03-2010 03:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for that info Robert, good to know. Sound like the waiting room is a good idea. That would reduce the stress (just sit there and hope you get picked to buy a ticket!) than to frantically try to get it. We know how much fun it is to be a high bidder in eBay in the last minutes for some super cool space goodies when all the other cS'ers are bidding also.

Sad that the public is "suddenly" interested in the shuttle now because it's ending. They should have been interested for the past few decades. Then again, people like us on this site are a special case.

I'll be up at 5:45am here in Seattle the day after I get that email and be in the waiting room with my jammies on. Ha!

Tom

Rob Joyner
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posted 01-03-2010 04:33 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I'm not liking this at all! Now we have to play a lottery to get a chance at a launch viewing ticket just because it's taken some people 25+ years to finally realize they haven't seen an in-person shuttle launch yet?! I'd much rather take my chances at the old '9am-type-like-crazy-and-pray-they-don't-sell-out' game that I've played for many years before.

KSCVC only updated the ordering process just last launch by allowing about an 8 minute window to get everything typed in and finish the order. For many years before it was simply type fast and pray, as mentioned above.

I can understand limiting the number of LTTs per order, but cannot see a reason why they are making this a lottery just because of "higher demand". It used to be that I could call even the next day after LTTs went on sale and still get one, or as many as I needed, but that has not been the case for a few years now as the tickets sell out within minutes. This rate of sales has existed long enough that if a "higher demand" for tickets was indeed a problem a solution would have been put into place long ago. And now, with only five scheduled launches left, they decide to change everything? Certainly KSCVC is not just now realizing the high demand of LTTs?!

I think they should keep the ordering system the way it was last launch, with the 8 minute window. At least that way I'd be in control of whether I get a ticket or not instead of sitting in front of my computer with my fingers crossed for 15 minutes.
AARRGH!!!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-04-2010 09:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
STS-130 launch viewing tickets for the NASA Causeway and from the KSC Visitor Complex will go on sale Wednesday, January 6, 2010, at 9:00 a.m. EST.

The "virtual waiting room" (as described above) opens at 8:45 a.m. EST.

tegwilym
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posted 01-05-2010 04:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If the launch is after 4am, about what time would NASA start letting people out on the causeway?

Just wondering... if I get up early tomorrow and manage to get lucky and out of the virtual waiting room and get a ticket, I was just doing a little planning.

I figured I could get to Florida on the 6th, the cheap flights get in between 9 and 11pm or so. Just wondering how much time I would have to get a rental car, toss my stuff in the Motel 6, etc. and get to the viewing area?

Tips anyone?

johnraiders
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posted 01-05-2010 04:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for johnraiders   Click Here to Email johnraiders     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For the last night launch, they started the buses about 2.5 hours before launch, but this was after a scrub so not many people out there. For a first launch I suspect at least 4 hours before they'll start running.

Remember though, I know nothing.

tegwilym
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posted 01-05-2010 05:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It's all busses now? Or do they still do the car pass thing?

I was on a bus when I was there, but I had the fancy pass that was included with the autograph show and all that stuff...

Ahh! That was the BEST, nothing can ever match up with that STS-117 weekend.

Rob Joyner
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posted 01-05-2010 09:08 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
They haven't had public car passes for a very long time now. The cars seen along the causeway belong to NASA employees. The general public must use the KSC bus in order to view from the causeway.

The busses always begin running to the causeway about three hours before launch for two hours, stopping an hour before launch. Once there, I always go to the bus entry area just outside the Space Shop and ask an employee for any updates or changes. Be sure to take one of the last busses in case of a scrub. Once you give up the LTT to get on the bus you'll have to purchase another in the event of a scrub. Check back at the bus entry area thirty minutes before the last bus is scheduled to leave. In the past there have been times when the last bus left earlier than scheduled. I almost found that out the hard way once.

If you're arriving within a day of the launch be sure to factor in what time you'll have to be through security. That designated time will be on your car placard, which will sent along with your tickets a few weeks before launch. My past arrival times have been 6 to 9 hours before launch. I think you'll have an earlier arrival time if you include the 'Dine with' add-on.

But before all that can happen we'll have to keep our fingers crossed and hope for a visit from the Shuttle Fairy. Good luck!

Jay Chladek
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posted 01-06-2010 12:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If you succeed in getting launch tickets, the packet you get in the mail will have frequently asked questions about what you can and can not take to the visitors center on launch day.

Based on my STS-114 and 121 experiences, I would try to get in as soon as you can. If you manage to get a ticket and the car pass, there will be a time printed on it as the recommended time they want you to get there. Traffic is going to be crazy, so bring your patience along and have your ID handy to show to KSC security along with the passes. Also, keep the car clean in case they decide to search the car (not likely, but it can happen).

I would pack bottles of water in the car. You can't take them inside the visitors center, but you can drink one or two before entry and have the rest stashed for when you get back to the car after the long day. Pack light as much as possible. I emphasize portability of items as opposed to a lot of stuff, so if you are going to take a camera and a tripod, keep it small. Be aware though that unless you are taking a rather good telephoto lens with you, your photos aren't likely to be any better then the commercially printed ones since you are still pretty far from the pad. I would try to concentrate on getting a good memory of the experience as opposed to a good photo. If you get a good photo, it will be icing on the cake, but don't feel disappointed if you don't.

In my own case, I took a rather large tote bag to stash stuff in as they don't allow backpacks. It was big enough for my small camera bag to fit in along with my printed forms and tickets. It was also big enough to stash small items (shirts, patches, pins, maybe a book to pass the time with) purchased at the gift shop. Save your big purchases for after the launch/scrub since you don't want to have to lug them around all over the place.

As for other stuff to pack, include a light jacket or folded poncho for the possible rain shower, bug spray (even at night, mosquitos will eat you up), sunscreen and maybe a small radio to hear updates with if you aren't seated next to a PA speaker. A beach towel is also a good thing to sit on instead of the grass. You could bring a small folding chair (lawn chairs aren't allowed), but again that is excess weight IMHO.

Have a good set of walking shoes that you can stand comfortably in long lines with. For 114, the lines to the buses were a little long and I imagine this year's launches will also be. If the day is hot and humid, the visitors center will have water misters set up next to the fans to help blow cool(er) air on you while waiting in line.

Most important thing is to have fun.

tegwilym
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posted 01-06-2010 08:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Argh! Got to the ordering page, but causeway was not an option after a few minutes of retrying due to "heavy traffic" on the server. This is going to be tough to see another launch. Is the visitor center any good?

I did the causeway for STS-117.

johnraiders
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posted 01-06-2010 10:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for johnraiders   Click Here to Email johnraiders     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Same here, had option of causeway but server busy.

I'd say Titusville is better than visitor centre, at least you see it on the pad. Visitor centre nothing till it clears the trees, of course it'll look like daylight before you see it.

Other option is GrayLine tours, but you never get out to the causeway until all the KSC buses have left.

tegwilym
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posted 01-06-2010 11:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yeah, I heard the Titusville site is probably the next best place. I wonder if the tours will raise their prices since they probably can, and get away with it since there is now such a demand for this?

I'll have to explore the options and read Ben Cooper's viewing guide again.

johnraiders
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posted 01-06-2010 01:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for johnraiders   Click Here to Email johnraiders     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Prices are still the same, looks like I'll go down the Grayline route and hope they let the bus go early.

gliderpilotuk
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posted 01-06-2010 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for gliderpilotuk   Click Here to Email gliderpilotuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've used Grayline/Gator Tours twice and highly recommend them. The "tour guides" are very entertaining and I've always managed to get a "front row" place at the water's edge for photos, despite them leaving later. It also takes the strain out of the drive back to central Orlando.

Rob Joyner
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posted 01-06-2010 04:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like the Disappointment Club is growing. This morning I clicked on the Causeway selection, then the quantity. Then the next page reads something akin to "You must first select a quantity before continuing"! Just that, with no instructions as what to do next, like "Click here" or "Backspace". I had no other option but to backspace. Once I did so the quantity selection wasn't even available! I refreshed the page and you can probably guess what happened next. Yep. Start all over - with no Causeway selection offered.

This new "virtual window" is a joke and caters to scalpers so easily it boggles my mind how anyone could have come up with something so inane. It has not even been 9 hours since the tickets went on sale and already there are at least 23 tickets available on ebay, VC viewing and causeway tickets. Get this one - four VC tix for $800! And you can bet there will be more.

I've already called KSC and complained. Amazingly, the employee agreed with me, (though in only so many words as he wants to keep his job I suppose). I suggest others do the same and call KSC in hopes this fiasco of an ordering system will be thrown in the trash where it belongs.

As far as non-causeway viewing goes, watch from Titusville along the Indian River. You're about 12 miles away but you can see Endeavour lift off the pad with your own eye instead watching it on the Jumbotron at KSC, plus it will be cheaper and you won't have to get there hours beforehand.

I contacted Grayline and they have LTTs available at $115 per package, about $55 more than the KSC base price, excluding shipping. Though their site does not mention it Grayline has a pickup site in Titusville at 810 Cheney where the K-mart is or used to be. Pickup time is at 10pm Feb 6 and nothing can be left on the bus once at KSC.

johnraiders
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posted 01-06-2010 06:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for johnraiders   Click Here to Email johnraiders     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Titusville pickup looks like the one I'll go for.

In contrast the Gator tours guides were really terrible when I went, they seemed to know nothing about what happens when it scrubs.

I agree you can get front row, but way down the end, you cant hear the PA and a long walk to the Post Office guy.

tegwilym
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posted 01-07-2010 01:24 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I first thought the virtual waiting room thing was a good idea, but then you get into the ordering page, and it's still so bogged down that others are getting in while you don't. Unless you are one of the lucky ones.

Frustrating!

teopze
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posted 01-14-2010 09:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for teopze   Click Here to Email teopze     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just moved to USA for a year or two. I live in Ithaca, NY. Anyone in the neighborhood? I plan to go see the Space Shuttle launch [I have the tickets for the next one, unfortunately not from the Causeway]. I'm considering other options, would be great to do it with someone a bit more experienced.

lunarrv15
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posted 01-19-2010 06:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for lunarrv15   Click Here to Email lunarrv15     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I never knew that the Air Force at Cape Canaveral gave out vehicle passes. Is this for media people, military personal, (both?) and can the public can write for one [if they know the address]?

A seller on Astro-Auction is auctioning STS-90, STS-93, and STS-119 passes that the Air Force gave for viewing on their causeway.

Where is the Air Force causeway anyway? How many are they allowed to offer?

teopze
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posted 01-19-2010 07:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for teopze   Click Here to Email teopze     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I just got my ticket for STS-130. The thing is that the ticket was bought by a friend, he used his credit card and his name, etc. [I was more or less in between US and EU]. Can I use the ticket? It says that I may be asked to show my ID. Is his name stored somewhere in the bar codes etc? Thank you.

P.S. Is it a good idea to watch the launch from the Visitor Complex? Or should I forget about the ticket and try to see it from some other place?

ilbasso
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posted 01-19-2010 09:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Another question about tickets - the vehicle placard says not to arrive any later than 11:30 pm but the launch passes say not to arrive any earlier than 2:30 am. I'm wondering how to reconcile that!

Rob Joyner
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posted 01-20-2010 06:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rob Joyner   Click Here to Email Rob Joyner     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Always go by the time on your car placard. If you arrive late the armed guards can make you do a U-turn. It says something like that in the info that comes with the packet.

I've always arrived within time so I don't know if they'll actually do it... but why take the chance?!

drjeffbang
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posted 01-21-2010 06:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for drjeffbang   Click Here to Email drjeffbang     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, we have booked a room for the STS-131 launch currently scheduled in March. If we are successful, this will be our third viewing!

Too bad that is also Spring Break week for many colleges...

tegwilym
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posted 01-26-2010 02:06 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Woohoo! I'm going to STS-130!

Thanks to another friendly cS'er I should have a pass to the causeway at least. I'll be going over on the 5th and back home the afternoon of the 9th - maybe see the Atlas launch?

I got a room in Melbourne since that seemed to be the closest place that was still open, so it will be about an hour drive to KSC.

Are there any plans for a cS get-together?

garymilgrom
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posted 01-26-2010 08:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ilbasso:
...the vehicle placard says not to arrive any later than 11:30 pm but the launch passes say not to arrive any earlier than 2:30 am.
Rob is correct about arrival time. I believe the pass time is when you will board the bus for the causeway. You'll have a few hours before that to tour KSC. Hope it goes off on time for you!

tegwilym
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posted 01-26-2010 11:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'll be arriving late friday night, so I won't have to rush around trying to find my bus after I get my car, hotel...etc.

Has anyone stayed in the Melbourne area before? I'm figuring it will be a long night with the drive back. Probably a lot of traffic I'm assuming since everything is pretty much booked up.

Jay Chladek
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posted 01-27-2010 11:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It might not be a bad idea to have someplace to at least drop your luggage rather then carrying it in the car, just in case your vehicle gets searched. Plus, if you know you've got some place to crash AFTER the flight (assuming it launches on time), it certainly helps.

ringo67
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posted 01-28-2010 07:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for ringo67   Click Here to Email ringo67     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My newspaper is sending me down to cover the STS-131 launch scheduled for March 18. This will be my first visit to KSC.

I've been reading as much as I can about the area. Although I believe I have a good idea of what I want to do as a tourist, I've found very little information to help me when I put on my press hat.

So, if there are any "media types" willing to help me get an idea of what to expect, I'd appreciate your help.

Thanks in advance,

- Paul Ring
MetroWest Daily News
Framingham, Mass.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-28-2010 09:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Paul, I've e-mailed you but in general, if you or other members of the media who happen to be reading have questions about working as press at KSC or JSC, I'm happy to help as I can...

johnraiders
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posted 02-01-2010 03:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for johnraiders   Click Here to Email johnraiders     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well good news, my mate at NASA has got me on the bus to Banana Creek. Flying out Saturday lunchtime, if all goes well, fly back Monday.

tegwilym
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posted 02-02-2010 09:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Just wondering if there are any gatherings planned for any of the cS members who will be at STS-130 next weekend?

ilbasso
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posted 02-02-2010 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Haven't heard about any other cS'rs coming - I'll be on the Causeway for Sunday's launch (which WILL go off on schedule!) and will be hanging around the area for the rest of the week to hedge my bets!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-02-2010 09:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There is a gathering of Space Tweeps planned for Sunday from 2 to 6pm at Grills Seafood Deck and Tiki Bar. There should be a few cS readers, if not also some members there. I plan to swing by for an hour or more if I can.

tegwilym
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From: Renton, WA USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 02-03-2010 04:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was also invited to Dixie Crossroads in Titusville for dinner at 7pm on Saturday night. I guess a group is meeting there too for a pre-launch dinner. Of course I don't know anyone but a bunch of shuttle geeks are all friends already aren't we?

ilbasso
Member

Posts: 1494
From: Greensboro, NC USA
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 02-03-2010 05:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like the weather forecast is holding up for launch time...but certainly not for us folks in the mid-Atlantic who are traveling to the launch! Latest forecast for the DC area, where I live, is 1-2 FEET of snow Friday afternoon into Saturday. I moved up my travel plans by a day with hopes that I don't get snowed in!


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