View Full Version : Rarely Seen Shuttle Pre-Flight Activities

Mike Burdick
05-06-2009, 11:21 PM
This is interesting...


Have any of you seen the shuttle or a shuttle launch in person?

05-06-2009, 11:39 PM
Great link, thanks! My step brother worked on the shuttle program in the early eighties in Huntsville, AL. and was present when the engines were tested on stands, he said it was quite impressive.

Frank Ford
05-07-2009, 01:07 AM
Have any of you seen the shuttle or a shuttle launch in person?

Not me, although I've had a few invites. My old pal, Steve Robinson has made some trips up on the shuttle. He also heads up a NASA rock band - here he is on a training flight:


I recently lacquer-protected a "celebrity" signature on his Fender Stratocaster:


Some British ex band member named McCartney. Way I figure it, Steve is the celebrity.

Just for laffs, here's my banjo, which sports some inlay work by Steve Robinson, done way back in about 1974:


When I first heard Steve was to be an astronaut, I said, "Jeez, I never expected I'd ever KNOW one."

His reply: "Even working for NASA, neither did I."

05-07-2009, 09:28 AM
Being close to Stennis Space center where the Shuttle mains and the Saturn engines were tested we get to feel the rumble from time to time.

Vintage Saturn V first stage test footage-Turn up the sound!


Millions of pounds of water cooled concrete make it possible.

Shuttle mains gimballing during test-


I've seen this at this distance in person,it makes your guts rumble,ribs chatter and feet tingle-


05-07-2009, 10:33 AM
I worked on the first and second tanks( test articles) at Martin Marietta in New Orleans and really loved it but the 7 day 12 hr work schedule was too much too handle. I saw some fantastic things and learned a lot.

Jim Caudill
05-07-2009, 11:27 AM
I saw a couple of launches, but no recoveries. My Dad used to winter in Titusville, Fl and I went down to visit and watch the launches. The last one I saw was a nightime launch, it lit up the whole Eastern coastline (Dec of '99 IIRC). Surprisingly, they aren't as loud as you would think. Locals said the old Appollo rockets were the loudest and most earth shaking of anything ever launched

05-07-2009, 05:31 PM
An astronaut named Joseph Tanner is from Danville, IL, about 30 minutes from me. There are actually a lot of famous people from Danville. Dick and Jerry Van Dyke, Gene Hackman, and Bobby Short among them. Some friends and I were talking about that one day and one of them noted that they were all famous because they left Danville, so I pointed out that one of them even felt it necessary to leave the planet :D Nice little town though. If you're ever there, go to Royal Donut. Best damn donuts I've ever had.

Your Old Dog
05-07-2009, 08:20 PM
.......................If you're ever there, go to Royal Donut. Best damn donuts I've ever had.

Odd that you turn the topic to donuts and you are not even a Canuck ! :D Donuts are the national treasure to all things Canadian, at least in Fort Erie Ontario where there is a donut shop on every street corner.

Great link, thanks

05-07-2009, 09:01 PM
I went to high school with current astronaut Clay Anderson (although he is few years older). He went up and stayed on the space station for about 4 or 5 months and is scheduled to go up again soon on a regular shuttle mission. As an aside, in the same class as Clay was Jeff Raikes who until recently was the number three man at Microsoft, and is now currently the CEO of the Bill Gates Foundation, responsible for handing out billions of Gates' money. Pretty weird having that much celebrity in such a small graduating class, (about 60 maybe).

05-07-2009, 09:21 PM
Back in the late sixties me and buddy were on a road trip to LA from Berkeley in the Cadillac ambulance when we had a flat tire just outside of Vandenberg AFB on Hwy 101. It was just before dawn and still pretty dark. As we were working on the tire we saw a bright flash to the west and in a few seconds a missile. It climbed out and in just a few seconds was in sunlight. The sunlight brightly illuminated the exhaust plume as it spread out from the engine. The sky was cloudless and crystal clear back then before universal pollution in Ca.

As we watched the missile staged and in a few seconds the second stage ignited. As it climbed the atmospheric pressure declined and the exhaust plume began to spread instead of forming a tail. It was still extremely visible in the bright sunlight against the nearly dark sky. A couple of minutes or so later the third stage ignited and by that time the exhaust plume was spreading as a giant cone with about a 90 degree included angle. This indicates that the rocket was operating in vacuum and we were able to easily track it by eye until third stage burnout.

At the time I didn't know what missile it was but looking back it was a Minuteman II. That was the only missile in the inventory with three stages that would be launched from Vandenberg at that time.

I have never heard or read about anybody being able to track a missile by eye until main engine cutoff in space. Has anybody else heard of this?

05-07-2009, 10:35 PM
If enough things went right, it could happen. Dark night, no other sources of light, young eyes, etc. Being in the desert would certainly help.

I recall from a book written by Saburo Sakae that WWII Japanese pilots competed to spot stars during daylight, which is slightly analogous to your experience. At any rate it tells me that human eyesight can be very sensitive in ways beyond the norm.

It certainly helps to have some idea what to look for. Just as some people can identify a bird in flight by a flash of wings, it's possible to note stages of rocket flight by glimpses of exhaust trails, if you know the significance of what you see.

Whether others would know what they saw, I cannot say. But I wouldn't say it's impossible simply because it isn't visible to all...

05-08-2009, 12:54 AM
I recall from a book written by Saburo Sakae that WWII Japanese pilots competed to spot stars during daylight,

That should be just possible from high altitude. Venus is visible at certain times in it's orbit in the middle of the day. You need to know precisely when and where to look. When found it is easy to see but equally easy to lose if you look away. I have seen it once at around noon but haven't looked for it again since.

As for identifying what you see in the sky, I have never seen anything that I couldn't identify right away. Astronomers as a group report the fewest UFO sightings. The least likely observation I have made I also happened to photograph.

It is the trail of a meteor that changes direction several times even though it is travelling at perhaps 40,000 kilometres per hour. This is so unusual I reported it to the Discovery channel and they featured it on one of their shows in which they ask an expert about it. This occurred during the great Leonid meteor storm in 2002.


The expert was an astronomer from an observatory back east and was very jealous of my observation. He said such a trail has only been confirmed a few times ever in astronomy by a reliable source. They think it is cause by a flat shaped particle of high density, temperature resistant material, such as a chip of nickel/chrome alloy from a metallic asteroid. The chip skitters around during atmospheric entry like a stone skips on water.