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MAVEN Rocket to Mars! NASA Kennedy Space Center Launch TR!

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Some of you might remember that TPR was able to attend the SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch in March 2013 as part of the @NASASocial group. (Please follow their Twitter!)


FULL DISCLOSURE!!! I am not a "space geek", but I pretend to be one during these events. I find the events to be fantastic and the subject matter interesting on so many levels, and love sharing it with all of you, but if I don't know every fact or figure, or might mess up some jargon here or there, please forgive me! I'm a "theme park geek" at heart with an inner-space nerd who still has plenty of learning to do!


That being said, let me just talk for a moment about why these events, from an "event planning" perspective are so fascinating to me. To me, these events are JUST like a TPR "Bash event", but for space geeks! They do backstage tours, have Q&As, get together with other people who love the subject matter and totally "geek out" over it. They share stories online, have friends from other meet-ups, make friends, etc, etc. It's awesome! Best of all, it's just great to see an event like this from the "other side" and instead of being the one organizing it, I'm now the one enjoying it!


Ok, so about the event. This was a multi-day event covering the Atlas V rocket launch that was carrying the Maven spacecraft designed to orbit Mars and collect data about the Martian atmosphere. (not gonna lie, I lifted that info right from Wikipedia!)


I spent a day touring several areas of the Kennedy Space Center, most of which normal tourists to the visitor center do not have access to, listening to senior level staff involved with the program talk about Maven, and listen to some decorated astronauts speak about their experiences in Space and working with NASA. On Day two, I got to tour one of the launch pads that is being converted for use for an upcoming new program, and then finally the launch of MAVEN.


On the launch, all I can say is WOW! If you're interested in space exploration at all, please visit the NASA website for schedules of when they will launch rockets. There is a lot going on right now not only with NASA, but in the private, commercial sector, and launches happen probably more often than you think. KSC Event Schedule: http://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/events.aspx


Ok, onto photos & video!


I'm sure the thing you want to see most is something BLASTING OFF into the sky, so here goes! Video of MAVEN's lift off!!!



And now photos from my visit. Once again, please follow @NASASocial on Twitter. They are an amazing group!


Picking up my credentials at NASA. I dunno, we go to theme park media events all the time, but at none of them do we have to show two forms of government ID to get our credentials, so this just felt slightly more "cool" for some reason! :p


Like, I said, I'm not a "space geek", but for whatever reason, every time I've been to Kennedy Space Center there is just something really cool about driving up to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), and even cooler when you get do it in your own car!


OMG! Look who I found here! Banks Lee of Attractions Magazine!!!


Banks said one of his "bucket list" items was to get punched in the face in front of the VAB. Look, Banks is kind of a weird guy, but so am I. Not gonna deny the dude one of his bucket list items, right? *KAPOW!!!*


If there is one thing I can appreciate about NASA, is how they even geek out about their own stuff. It's honestly pretty cool! =)


There is launch pad 39A through the fog! Looks amazing! Right now it was actually being used as a film set for the movie Tomorrowland! As much as Elissa would have wanted me to meet George Clooney, I'm also a Pixar geek, so I would have rather met Brad Bird!


Oooh! The first stop on our tour is getting to go inside the VAB!!!


The VAB is 526 feet tall making it the largest single-story building in the world. In short... it's big.


This is the area where all the space shuttles were prepped for launch!


Look, it's hard to really describe just HOW BIG the VAB is, but is big DAMN BIG! That's looking straight up. You almost get vertigo standing in this building!


Here is one of the crawlers that they used to put the space shuttles on. It's getting prepped from the new SLS program (really, really big ass rocket that's going to launch the The Orion Crew Module into space. (Think Apollo missions but updated)


Some really bad ass space stuff in the VAB!


Heading out of the VAB. The Visitors Center now offers tours of this building. For many years you weren't able to go inside (mainly I think because they were busy), so while there is some downtime in here, I'd recommend taking the tour!


Driving by launch pad 39A. Tours are also offered here as well and it's amazing to walk around it!


Our next stop was actually getting to see the Atlas V rocket that was carrying MAVEN get rolled out to the launch pad! There it is closer to it's "Point A"


Here we are all taking photo of it! (Seriously, doesn't this look JUST like all us coaster nerds taking photos of rides???)


MAVEN is about half way there...


You can see where it came from and where it's going to...


...almost there!


This is Jason Townsend. He is the "Robb Alvey" of NASASocial. Great guy. Filled with information. He is the fearless leader who goes out of his way to make sure everyone else has a good time and is taken care of. It's great to see this from the other side of the coin. He does an awesome job. Better than I do on our tours, to be honest! (He has WAAAAY more patience!) =)


This is a stock photo of the crew module so you can get an idea of what it looks like.


Our next stop was this building. We weren't allowed to take photos inside, but this is where they were actually working on the Orion Crew and Service Module that will be part of the SLS program.


And here's some info. The new Space Launch System, which is designed to replace the space shuttle, will begin it's first test launch in December 2017. Yes, the NASA Space Program is still alive!


Next we stopped for lunch over near the VAB.


I have no idea why this photo was so entertaining to me, but there was just something about there being a Subway RIGHT. NEXT. DOOR to one of the most iconic buildings in USA's history. It was just one of those weird, memorable "Dude, I'm totally having Subway right next to the VAB" moments. Yes, I know... I'm dumb! =)


Oh, yeah. This was all put on by NASA Social! Follow them! They rock! @NASASocial


YAY! MAVEN is on the launch pad ready to go!


We heard some great presentations from members of NASA and the partners they are currently working with. Jim Green Dir of Planetary Science giving a presentation on MAVEN and it's goals... (to study Mars' atmosphere and find out more about why we think there used to be water on Mars, had a thicker atmosphere at one point, and now does not.)


Jim Green feels that when man finally makes it to Mars, we will need so much equipment, that this is what we might look like! =) (Cue Michael Bay for his next film, please! On second thought.... don't...)


Lisa May (who is a Google Glass user via iPhone, which I give her props for!) talks about her journey getting to where she's at now with NASA: "I was a math geek, hated pre-med, found engineering & made it my home." Again, very interesting and inspiring stories for people who are interested in the field.


Chris Waters, Systems Design Lead discusses the MAVEN mission and uses the model to explain how it will orbit Mars.


We heard ULA Launch's Joe Fust walk us through MAVEN's assembly process.


John Grunsfeld, who is a decorated astronaut with the shuttle program said "I think a mission to Europa would be really exciting!" Which I think had a VERY different meaning for me than it did for him! =)


Time to say goodbye to NASA and the VAB on day one! Was a GREAT day! Can't wait for day two...and to see MAVEN BLAST OFF!!!


Oh, yeah, and be sure to check out the new Atlantis exhibit at the Visitors Center!


Here we are back on day two driving into NASA. We see the sign "0 Days to launch!" YES!!!!


We start our day by hearing from two astronauts from the shuttle program, NASA Administrator NASA administrator Charlie Bolden & Bob Cabana. Was amazing listening to the stories these guys had to tell.


Next stop...another icon of NASA! The Countdown Clock!!! This is the "official countdown clock" you would see on every shuttle launch on TV and pretty much, other than the VAB, is probably the most iconic part of Kennedy Space Center.


"Just me hanging out with the Countdown Clock!"


"Yo, what up, bros?"


NASA Social says "GO MAVEN!!!"


Next up was another awesome tour... NASA Launch Control Center!


Patch collectors would LOVE to have this wall!


Yes! This is actual Mission Control where the Space Shuttles were actually launched from! If only Gary Sinise were here, we could totally reenact the pre-show for Mission: Space. "The X-2 Deep Space Shuttle. It's powered by solid hydrogen, and can accelerate from zero to six thousand in sixty seconds. So when you hear the words "Go For Launch," you'll definitely want to hang on."




Hey, look! Space Shuttle Crawler POV!!!


Driving up to launch pad 39B for an up close tour!


Launch pad 39B is currently being renovated for use in the SLS program. Yes, rockets will be launching from here again in December 2017!


Here I am standing in the "flame trench!" DO NOT LAUNCH THAT ROCKET!!!! NOOOOOOooooooo!


Stuff happens here. I'm not sure what. But it does....


Next up was "Swamp Works." This was the R&D arm of NASA...sort of like the "Walt Disney Imagineering of Space Exploration."


All I know is that they have a BAD ASS logo!!!


In this room was probably the most "Science stuff" I've ever seen in one place in my life.


Lots of strange machines that made funny whirring noises.


I felt like at any moment they could start doing experiments on one of us! (Shhhhh! Don't tell them I'm an alien!!!!)


Things attached to copper plates on the ceiling. I'm not sure why they need this (but I'm sure one of our engineering geeks will tell us!)


Seriously, they just have some crazy, cool looking stuff in these rooms. If this was a Candy Factory, there would be Oopma Loompas an a 900-year old Gene Wilder dancing around.


I don't know what this is, but I wanted to mount a GoPro to it and let it fly around!


Does anyone want to E-Stop the Space Program? No? Ok, good. Moving on now...


YES!!! We are here! All lined up to see MAVEN BLAST OFF!!!!


Countdown! 3....2....1.... WE HAVE LIFTOFF!!!!


Maven is airborne!!!


It is seriously AWESOME being so close to the launch. You can FEEL the power of this sucker lifting off into space. It's incredible!


The trail is one of the brightest things I've ever seen. I believe we are about as close as a civilian can get to a rocket launch this powerful. Please WATCH THE VIDEO above to get an idea of what it's like, but you simply cannot describe it. If you ever get the chance to attend a rocket launch in person, I highly recommend it!


And there is Launch Complex 41 still smoking a few moments after MAVEN lifted off...


I want to send a HUGE THANK YOU once again to NASA Social and the entire group of people that I met during this event. Please follow @NASASocial on Twitter! Oh, and a shout out to @andresdavid who is the one that got me into this whole mess to begin with! Thank you!


And...oh, yes... The @NASASocial #MAVEN Group Photo!!!

Edited by robbalvey
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The closest I've ever been to a launch was seeing the Space Shuttle from the Magic Kingdom a number of years ago, even though I've been the to the Space Center twice. Would love to see a launch up close some day.

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Wow that's awesome that you got to check that out!! Thanks for sharing.


This is a grounding plate used to dissipate electrical current into the ground. They are used when working with sensitive electrical components.

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I saw a launch of one of the shuttles back when i was on the Disney College Program. (wow that was 9 years ago now!!!) i was pretty far away and the sound and feeling was unlike anything i have ever experienced yet to this day! I would love to get back down there for another launch and tour the center!

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Completely random, but for some reason it's so weird seeing you wearing pants. I've only seen you wear shorts on the tours!

And it feels soooooo weird, too!


Gotta wear pants the next two days at IAAPA as well. Seriously, this might be the most I've worn long pants this entire year so far where we weren't on a cruise ship! lol

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Very cool pics! My girlfriend Lauren works for NASA and spends a lot of her days in the VAB. The big crane waaaay up top is "hers" and so are the platforms. I work on the Air Force side for Lockheed. It wasn't until I moved to FL and started working out here that I got a good appreciation for the size and scale of the entire space program, but it's pretty amazing once you get to witness some of it up close like you did. The SLS rocket will be a very impressive launch since it'll utilize a lot of the same hardware that the Shuttle program used. Think about two times as loud as the one today! It's pretty impressive to think you could sit the VAB overtop of either TTD or Kingda Ka and it would easily cover the towers! Indoor Dragster would a pretty awesome attraction!

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"This is Jason Townsend. He is the "Robb Alvey" of NASASocial. Great guy. Filled with information. He is the fearless leader who goes out of his way to make sure everyone else has a good time and is taken care of. It's great to see this from the other side of the coin. He does an awesome job. Better than I do on our tours, to be honest! (He has WAAAAY more patience!) "


- But did he use the phrase 'Twisty Goodness' anytime during the visit? Did he get you ERT on Maven? No. Don't cut your yourself short. Your good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.

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I'm one of those lucky enough to work out here and such. What a launch. I've been down in FL for a couple, and that was one of the better ones! I can't wait until we start launching Heavy-Lift Rockets!


Do you guys know which causeway you were on? I think I saw mass hysteria at the NASA Causeway, but perhaps you guys could have been somewhere else.

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This is a DJI Hexcopter(looks like a S800 to me) with a Naza flight controller on it.


When I get together with my crazy buddies I fly all sorts of machines like this (and yes they have gopros on them) -

here is one being used to film the spacex grasshopper launch at height. (you can see the propeller and arm when it looks up)


You'll see a few of its 4 bladed brethren in this video (This was my favorite FPV meetup yet! , also the best video I have ever made hehe)




BTW, most of those guys I hang out all live in Central Florida (google Central Florida FPV)

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"This is Jason Townsend. He is the "Robb Alvey" of NASASocial. Great guy. Filled with information. He is the fearless leader who goes out of his way to make sure everyone else has a good time and is taken care of. It's great to see this from the other side of the coin. He does an awesome job. Better than I do on our tours, to be honest! (He has WAAAAY more patience!) "


- But did he use the phrase 'Twisty Goodness' anytime during the visit? Did he get you ERT on Maven? No. Don't cut your yourself short. Your good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.

Ha! Thanks for the kind words. I'm not selling myself short, though, he really DOES have more patience than I do!

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How neat! I really enjoyed this report. I love space stuff in general but am not a space geek either although it doesn't take a whole lot of brain cells to see from the pics and video that you had an AWESOME time!!! I'm going to have to look into the new launch system they're creating as I don't know anything about it. Dec 2017 seems so far away!

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I watched the launch from the Kennedy Space Center. The rocket caught everyone by surprise by blasting off with 10 seconds to go in the countdown. Then the commentator said 'Sorry, we forgot there's a 10 second delay in relaying the countdown!'

It looked like Robb had said 'So what does this button do?' DON'T TOUCH THAT BUTTON SIR!


Fantastic to see, even from 5 miles away.

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