The clock takes another tick near T-0 for the Space Shuttle Program

The last few weeks have been an amazing yet sad journey photographing the end of America’s manned space program for the foreseeable future. I arrived in Florida on April 26th for Space Shuttle Endeavours first launch attempt. The first attempt on April 29th ended up being scrubbed due to an electrical problem in the aft of Endeavour. The next attempt wouldn’t be until May 16. Here are a few photos from the happenings leading up to the first launch attempt. Since I am typing this from a Bob Evans, I wont be able to provide much commentary.

After severe thunderstorms slammed the area earlier in the evening, at 12am the rotating service structure began to move from around Endeavour.

The scrub didn’t keep the President away as he still made a visit to KSC with his family.

Endeavours crew arrived a few days before launch on Wednesday, May 11.

On the day before launch I arrived at KSC at 5:30 am in order to go out around the launch pad to set up three remote cameras. These cameras are triggered by the sound of the shuttle when the engines ignite. Photographer Ben Wang captured this photo of me setting up on of my triggers, this would be the only one out of three that would work…..

The rotating service structure was pulled away from Atlantis at noon the day before launch.

Although low cloud cover didn’t make for the best viewing, it did provide a great background for photos! This is the view from my remote camera about a 1/2 mile east of the launch pad.

Here is the view from the press site 3.1 miles from the pad. I normally would have a few different views from here but since my other cameras were three miles away at the pad I was just able to get one angle of launch. For the final launch I will definitely have two cameras on me!

The day after launch I was back at KSC for the final rollover of an Orbiter from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the VAB where she will be prepped for rollout to the launch pad.

While shooting my eyes locked on to a set of stairs which ended up providing a nice elevated view of the scene in front of me.

The final Space Shuttle crew poses in front of Atlantis.

Last year while walking through the Vehicle Assembly Building during the KSC Open House I set a little goal, that goal being that I would be back in the building before the program ended to shoot the lift and mate of a space shuttle. I had no idea at the time how I would do it, and even worse I only had two more chances before the program ended. Since I had my press badge for STS-134 I sent out an e-mail to the right person with my request to shoot the final lift and mate of a space shuttle and it was approved. I was with a group of about 12 other photographers who were representing several parts of the world.

Workers attach the large sling onto Atlantis which will allow it to be hoisted vertical into the air.

A film crew from the Discovery Channel was on hand documenting the events for a special which will air later this year.

Our awesome escort Charlie was able to get us some awesome access in the VAB. These angles included several different angles around levels 6 and 16 of the VAB. The one big rule while on the upper levels was to not drop anything. Considering a several billion dollar spacecraft was a couple hundred feet below me, this was great advice!

The highlight of the day was being given a haz badge, I was told I could walk as close as I wanted around Atlantis for photos, the only rules were to not walk under the wings and of course no touching or jumping in 😉 Knowing that I would never have this opportunity again I tried to get every angle imaginable around Atlantis during the short time frame I was given.

For the shot above I ended up laying on the ground and by shooting with my 10-22 I was able to get this nice angle looking up at Atlantis. It is probably my favorite shot from the day.

A group of workers pose with Atlantis before she is hoisted into the air.

Media members cover the lift.

Atlantis begins to lift off the floor of the VAB.

One of my goals for the day was to show how little Atlantis looked while inside the massive VAB. When vertical Atlantis stands 12 stories tall and she is still dwarfed by the building .

After a few minutes of shooting the lift from the floor we go on the elevator and headed to level 16 for a closer look at the lift.

Atlantis is lifted over to the high bay where she will be lowered and attached to her external tank and twin solid rocket boosters for the final time.

Next week I will photograph Atlantis as she makes her final journey to the launch pad.

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