Watching The Martian recently made me reminiscent of my trip to Kennedy Space Center in February 2010 to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor, Mission STS-130. When the announcement was made that the shuttle program was ending, I knew I wanted to try to make a launch. Hubbie had been to a few and suggested that we try for a night as opposed to a day launch. We purchased tickets and took off a week from work following the launch date so that we could wait out a launch delay if necessary.
For more info about STS-130, see the link below:
There was also a launch scheduled for a Atlas V rocket later in the week carrying the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), so even if the shuttle was scrubbed, there was still a chance that we might see a rocket launch.
We arrived at Cape Canaveral the night of the Endeavor’s scheduled launch and waited until the wee hours in a Florida night that was a colder temperature than I had imagined Florida ever reached in February, only to be sent home and have the launch rescheduled to the next night. The second night we arrived with substantially more clothing and waited again at the six-mile viewing area for the shuttle to launch. This time we were rewarded with a beautiful launch. It was a magnificent sight in the night sky. There were very little lights pre-launch, so when the shuttle lifted off it seemed like the sun had instantly appeared.
We also still hoped to see the Atlas V launch, which was delayed one day to allow for the minimum wait period between launches after the shuttle delayed one day. On the day of the first launch attempt, we drove to Playalinda beach and hiked to the property line for photos of the rocket launch, from which we had seen gorgeous photos of other launches. Although only a mile or so, the hike turned out to be a long country mile through loose sand and high winds. After the hard walk and wait, the rocket launch was scrubbed to the next day due to high winds. Since we still had a visitor pass from our shuttle launch, we decided to watch the second launch attempt from the Visitor Center, so we timed the tour to be at the Apollo/Saturn V Center around time for the launch, which was about 3 miles from the launch site. This time the launch was successful, and we did get some fun pictures.
So much of our current technology has roots in the space program such as wireless communications, water filtration, and pacemakers, just to name a few! There is a yearly publication that illustrates new technologies from NASA at the following:
If you are interested in aerospace history, I also recommend a trip to the Udvar-Hazy Center, part of the National Air & Space Museum, located near Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. Although less flashy than the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum on the National Mall, it houses some of history’s most famous aerospace equipment such as the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, a Lockheed 71-A Blackbird, and the Space Shuttle Discovery, just to name a few. You might remember the Blackbird from the movie Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. We visited in 2011 when the Space Shuttle Enterprise was still housed there as well.
You can find a map of the museum including the exhibits on their site: