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Has anyone gone to Florida specifically to watch Shuttle Launch?

Has anyone gone to Florida specifically to watch Shuttle Launch?

Old Jun 24th, 2008, 11:28 PM
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Has anyone gone to Florida specifically to watch Shuttle Launch?

On my list of things to do before I die... I want to see a shuttle launch up close and personal.

I know that sometimes there are delays due to weather, etc.

Does anyone have:

a) any hints as to which shuttle launches in the upcoming year are most likely to go on time?

b) timing for arriving before the launch

c) any good places to get cheap lodging

and

d) best place(s) from where to see the launch.

Thanks all!
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Old Jun 24th, 2008, 11:33 PM
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Sorry! Just saw the other post from today! hahaha Crazy!
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Old Jun 24th, 2008, 11:56 PM
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My good friends went to see a launch a few years ago. It was delayed several hours, then cancelled. They couldn't come back again, but said it was kind of fun talking to other viewers as they all waited.
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Old Jun 25th, 2008, 12:11 AM
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Yes. I went to see the launch on May 31.

I don't have time right now to fill you in but hopefully tomorrow I can come back and report and to see the other thread you mentioned.
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Old Jun 25th, 2008, 07:00 AM
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Some others can probably give more advice but here's mine.

As to cheap lodging - sorry but they raise the rates for shuttle shots (or that's what we found). We stayed down the road further and found cheaper rates.

As to viewing the launch - we found the beach is the best place to view - you feel the rocket first, then you hear, and then see the start of the liftoff. It's quite spectacular.

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Old Jun 25th, 2008, 09:43 AM
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I saw a launch back in March 2008 at about 12:50am! Apparently, it was the last night launch that NASA will ever do. From what I gathered, you never really know if the launch will actually occur or be cancelled until the last minute. So, you kind of just have to take your chances and hope that the weather conditions are favorable.

But I agree with you, it's one of those things that you should see during your lifetime. Really amazing. I saw a few launches as a child from a couple of hundred miles away in Punta Gorda (when the shuttle was way up in the sky as sort of a glowing ball). But it absolutely doesn't have the magnitude that one up close has. And don't forget about that sonic boom! : )

Regarding your questions, (a) I'm sure NASA posts upcoming launches online. However, there probably isn't usually a ton of advanced notice. (b) I would get to a launch at least 20 minutes beforehand (depending on where you plan on heading). It's really cool because people literally begin to pull off on the shoulder of the highway. But as you get closer, the traffic definitely impacts your travel time. (c) I wouldn't know. I drove down from Orlando, only about an hour and a half away. (d) I viewed the launch from the top of a 7 story parking garage at a local hospital in Ft. Lauderdale. It provided a superb birds eye view of the entire surrounding area. If you can find a parking garage that's maybe 2 - 3 miles closer (w/o obstruction), you'll be in great shape.
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Old Jun 25th, 2008, 10:36 AM
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I've seen several launches- all from Jetty Beach State Park. I have heard it's as close as the family member seating at NASA, but it's been 15+ years and I can't remember where I heard that, so you may want to verify that.

We did always camp at Jetty Beach, but I really don't remember much about the quality.
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Old Jun 25th, 2008, 01:47 PM
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Hi sarge!

I think it would be great to come see a shuttle launch, but you need to have some other plans as a back up. I've had many relatives visit with the hopes of seeing a launch end up disappointed when it didn't happen.

a) Not even NASA knows which launches might be delayed. Sometimes it happens for a major reason and they can announce a "slip" well in advance. Sometimes it's something unpredictable, such as a private plane or boat getting too close to the launchpad. Many times, they can fix it within a short period and the "scrub" is only 24 hours long. Other times, the problem is bad enough that the shuttle has to be "rolled back" to the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) and the delay takes months.

b & d) It depends on where you decide to watch the launch. If you purchase tickets from the Visitors Center to get the closest view, they have a set time you need to arrive by. This is the closest and most amazing view (with the best sound), but you pay for the priviledge. If you decide to go to the beach, then the closest area is Jetty Park, and there is a fee to enter, so I'd make a day of it. If you chose to view from the Indian River, I'd recommend Titusville (around Sand Point park). Plan to be there 2-3 hours prior to launch to secure a good spot. I personally think this is the best view after the one purchased from the Visitors Center. You see the shuttle soon and the noise seems louder (DH thinks the ocean muffles the sound).

As LN mentioned, hotel rates go up around launch dates. If you can get a good price in an area one-two hours away, where there are other sights you'd like to see, I'd go with that.

You might want to check out www.spaceflightnow.com for the latest news and info on launches.
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Old Jun 25th, 2008, 07:24 PM
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See I knew someone would give you more factual advice.

I still like the beach. Getting on base is difficult and getting to the assigned areas is even more difficult. I do know that as I've lived and worked the Washington DC area.

We've been to two of the space shots and been astounded each time. You really do have to go (we had to).

To be honest, on the first visit we had a motel rent us room and the only problem was that they rented others the same rooms for the same time we got FAARRRR away from that situation.

Good luck hope you enjoy the launch as we did.
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Old Jun 26th, 2008, 04:53 PM
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I saw a launch back in March 2008 at about 12:50am! Apparently, it was the last night launch that NASA will ever do.

palmies- that's funny. The next two launches listed are both AT NIGHT! Maybe they changed their mind.

THanks all for the helpful hints! It seems getting vacation pkgs to Orlando is cheaper. And although we won't be doing Disney, we thought it would be worth the trip just to visit the other stuff at the Kennedy Space Center. So, even if the launch is cancelled, we'll have enjoyed ourselves!
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Old Jun 26th, 2008, 05:05 PM
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Yes, we made a trip out there just for the launch. A friend was the pilot, so we had a keen interest in it. We stayed at the Hilton in Cocoa Beach and our room was around $120 a night, so not bad considering. We also spent several days at Disney since we were there. The first launch date was scrubbed, at the very last minute, literally. But it went the next night without a hitch and was absolutely amazing to see!
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Old Jun 27th, 2008, 09:09 AM
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On the night launch, I was just going by what a "local" told me! I guess they were uninformed. : )
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Old Jun 27th, 2008, 12:58 PM
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At the beginning of May I learned about the Discovery launch on May 31, a SATURDAY, at 5:02PM. This was ideal since it required the least amount of time off (I am not a workaholic, I use my time off and then some as soon as I get it) from work.

About May 2 I bought a ticket from LAX to Orlando and reserved the Sheraton Suites Orlando Airport for two nights at $99/night (maybe it was $109). I didn't have any time to plan the trip because of a previously planned vacation.

May 26, after returning from a weekend trip to D.C. I decided to get serious about the trip to Orlando. In D.C. we visited the Air and Space Museum and I saw a display of a thruster nozzle of a Delta V rocket. It was huge, but was actually a part of a display, with mirrors that gave you an image of what all 5 nozzles would look like.

Searching the web that day I learned that, of course, all of the viewing tickets sold by the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) were sold out. But the website mentioned tour bus companies that had tickets and offered tours for each launch.

I found Gator Tours and booked the tour online. I think the price on their website was $115 but they actually charged me about 10% less. I don't know if I was lucky to get the tour at that late a point in time or not.

When I talked to Gator Tours the next day I was told that the pickup point would be the Holiday Inn Select at the airport, just down the street from the Sheraton Suites. When I check the price at the HI I saw it was lower, so I booked it.

May 30, the day before I left I cancelled the reservation at the Sheraton and then went to print my res info for the HI. I realized that I booked the wrong hotel. Too bad I had cancelled the Sheraton. The rate at the HI was higher than what I had there.

Went to priceline and bid $44 for a 4* hotel at Orlando Airport. The response said that if I bid $12 more that I could re-bid immediately. I got the Sheraton Suites! which was were I wanted to stay in the first place, but at about $115 less, total, than the good price I got online.

I learned from a friend that I might have gotten a better price if I got a hotel away from the airport, but having already arranged my tour pickup I decided not to look around.

The Sheraton Suites at MCO is very nice and I definitely would stay there again. The suite and staff were excellent, esp. considering the priceline rate.

In the morning I was running a few minutes late and had the airport shuttle driver take me over to the Holiday Inn to the pickup point. I failed to tip the guy, unfortunately. Got there at 7:29AM and after I got off the shuttle I turned around and saw the tour bus arrive, exactly on time. There were several people already waiting out front.

The tour bus departed at 8AM. The bus has overhead bins of a size like on a regional jet, big enough for a small backpack. The website warned against bringing big backpacks, but some people did bring fairly large ones. Mine was a daypack with food and gatorade, BINOCULARS, sunscreen, a compact UMBRELLA, and some food.

The bus was full, maybe one empty seat. I usually travel alone and see couples and families mostly, on tour buses, with few if any other singles. On this tour there were several other single guys which of course made sense since this tour would attract more geeks than other tours. One was Japanese, from Chiba, there for that launch in particular because STS-124 was delivering a Japanese lab to the international space station.

The trip to the KSC Visitors Center took about an hour. The tour guide gave us good info and tips along the way about what to expect and do at the Visitors Center and what the day would be like. The parking lot was mostly empty at the KSC.

The tour price included the roundtrip bus trip, a two day pass to the KSC, and the launch viewing pass to see the launch from the causeway on NASA property (i.e. the ticket that NASA sells).

IIRC, the causeway viewpoint is 6 miles or so from the launch pad. The VIP viewing point, Banana Cream they called it, is supposedly 3 miles from the pad. Titusville is said to be 12 miles.
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Old Jun 28th, 2008, 10:02 AM
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The tour guide suggested that if we were interested in taking the free KSC bus tour that we should get in the line as soon as we got through the VC front gates.

I did that and saw that they had railings up marking wait-lines that would accommodate hundreds of people. It was quite elaborate and set up so that a group of 5 buses could pull up and all 5 board at the same time from what had been one line. But they boarded each of the 5 buses sequentially and they took off when full. Then a new batch came up. I think that was their system. Took a good half hour or so of waiting.

The first stop was a huge hangar-like structure by the Banana Cream viewing point. Had to wait about 10 or 15 minutes after arriving there and then a big batch of us tourists went inside. There was a video presentation and then we went into what was a control room for flight launches in the past and another video was shown.

Next through the doors at the far end of the control room we came into the hangar. There was a Saturn V (not Delta 5 as I said before) rocket suspended above, lying horizontally, with the business end of the rocket - the enormous configuration of the 5 thruster nozzles right there. It is quite a jaw-dropping site. All of the stages of the rocket and the payload are there with excellent descriptions and diagrams. There is also an Apollo capsule, lander, and a moon rover used for training.

There is food/drink/restrooms there along with a gift shop. You can go outside and see the shuttle launch pad in the distance and there is a big digital countdown clock that you can get into the picture with the launch pad behind.

That is the Apollo/Saturn V Center:
http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/visitKSC/index.asp

Don't miss it.
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Old Jun 28th, 2008, 10:22 AM
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I can continue and describe the rest of the tour and the going-to and seeing the launch, if you are interested.

But to answer your questions:
a) would depend on weather at the time of year, of course. May 31 was just about perfect.
b) getting from Orlando to the KSCVC took about an hour when we left at 8AM for a 5PM launch. Getting back took 3 hours.
c) priceline! and if you got an airport hotel you wouldn't even need a rental car.
d) from the causeway in the KSC. Get tix from KSC or go on the tour. Tour is not cheap but it certainly is easy and absolutely worth it considering this is (was for me) a once in a lifetime thing. All the free viewing sites are twice as far away - but I would still do that if there is no choice.
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