On May 13 and 14, I had the extreme privilege of being picked by NASA to be apart of the NASA Tweetup for the launch of STS-132 - the final scheduled launch of Atlantis. Myself and 149 others were to attend the launch at the historic NASA Press Site right next to the Vehicle Assembly Building. This is restricted access, only available to members of the press, employees of NASA and "VIP" guests. Getting a press badge required a full security background check. Once I checked in early morning on the 13th and received my credentials, I was free to drive on NASA property right up to the Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic building that has identified NASA for the last 40+ years.
The first half of the video is all random footage I took during the 2 days at NASA with and audio bed from the pre-launch communications of flight control and Atlantis. After the launch they were rebroadcasting the audio over the loudspeakers, so I setup the camera pointed at the loudspeakers and recorded it. Being that it was outdoors and windy, sorry about the wind noise. I was going to cut the audio sooner when editing due to the increased noise, but had to leave the comment from Atlantis saying "...and if you don't mind we'll take her out of the barn and do a few more laps around the planet."
Excuse the herky-jerky movements at times, especially during launch. Number 1, I don't have as fluid a head on my tripod as thought, and 2, I wanted to watch as much of Atlantis as possible with my eyes instead of staring at it on the viewfinder. The real life view far and away exceeds anything you will see on film - especially at the distance we were at, the closest spectator location you can get without actually being one of the astronauts.
The brightness of the exhaust, filtered by the camera lens, was like looking into the sun, or a 200 foot welding torch - you could feel it's heat and my eyes were burning and seeing little black stars for hours afterwards. The sound, heavily compressed by the tiny microphones in my camcorder, was deafening. The vibration of the compounding sonic booms rippled throughout my body. I was once in a tornado and that is the only experience I can think of that compares.
After the launch and Atlantis is out of sight, I left a few minutes of footage to capture the sounds of the lingering amazement and one really ticked off aligator. The press site as well as the rest of NASA is carved out of a swamp, and that swamp runs right up to the side of the press site. I thought it wise to put on some sunscreen before going out of the Tweetup tent before launch and as a result all the prime center spots were claimed and I had to take up position at the very far end of the press site, about 20 feet from the swamp. Once the sound of Atlantis subsides, if you listen closely to the footage, you can hear the very deep and horse sounding calls of a very big gator. Trust me, it sounded a whole lot louder in person as the gator wasn't 10 feet past the start of the swamp. The blast of Atlantis plus all the newcomers hanging around his spot, really offended this beast and he wasn't being shy letting us know. But hey, how many times do you get to see a shuttle launch, so we weren't moving. Plus, with our Tweetup crew, there was only a 1 in 150 chance of getting eaten, so we were cool with those odds.
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