I woke up this morning at 1:15 am and drove an hour and a half to the Kennedy Space Center press site to cover shuttle Discovery as it prepared to leave KSC for the very last time. I had to be there by 4:15 am to be escorted to an area next to the runway where I would get a good angle of the wheels of the modified 747 jumbo jet as it left to ferry Discovery to her new home in Washington.
I wish I knew how many times Ive drove that route to KSC, Im surprised I didnt keep track of that detail. During my commute this morning, I started to think of the many images I captured of Orbitor Vehicle 103. Wow, the memories. A number of images come to mind.
*A crescent moon shines Feb. 3, 1989 as shuttle Discovery makes pre-dawn rollout to the launch pad.
*A Great Blue Heron takes flight December 2, 1992 moments before shuttle Discovery lifts off on its 15th flight.
*Shuttle Discovery, Commander Eileen Collins points at me before boarding and piloting a modified Gulfstream jet.
*John Glenn greets his wife, Annie with a kiss after arriving at KSC. The 77-year old senator is set to return to space Thursday, Oct. 29, 1998.
*Space shuttle Discovery (STS-120) astronauts (LtoR) Commander Pamela Melroy, Pilot George Zamka, Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson, Paolo Nespoli, European Space Agency, and Daniel Tani touch fists Friday, October 19, 2007 after arriving to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a launch.
*Space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, blasts off Thursday, February 24, 2011 from the Kennedy Space Center on its final flight.
*Kennedy Space Center workers hug Wednesday, March 9, 2011as space shuttle Discovery, STS-133, background, ends its historic career after the crew of 6 astronauts made a picture perfect landing at the Kennedy Space Center.
These are a few of the many thousands of photos Ive taken of the most traveled space shuttle.
Six photographers from different media groups packed in a van for a ride to the runway. We were taken to a good spot to capture the historic event. We had some time to pass and another rush of memories poured out. I remember when I and a few others set out remote cameras for the shuttle landings and we would string miles of wire along a perimeter fence, encountering water snakes and alligators. I wanted to go the extra mile for a better angle.
As we waited, I thought of the many engineers and technicians that have maintained shuttle Discovery. The people that I met and photographed were dedicated to the highest degree and had a true passion for what they did.
I was roused from my memories when our NASA escort informed us that they had changed the direction of the ferry flight takeoff.
We scrambled, collecting out gear and headed to the opposite end of the runway. I only had a couple of minutes to prepare before Discovery made its final trip leaving KSC.
As the jumbo jet throttled up and traveled down the runway toward my location, I focused on shuttle Discovery strapped on the back of the jet . As the ferry flight took off I thought, its kind of sad but I also thought what a great museum piece for the young and the old to admire in Washington, DC.
It was about 8 am when I got back to the KSC press site. I looked over to the huge parking lot in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building. It was practically empty. Another sign that an era has past.
I shared a few of my memories, but think of the astronauts and shuttle workers and their memories of this special spacecraft. Stories will be told.