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Say cheese!

Original post made by Todd Heapy, Downtown North, on Jul 7, 2011

Today was a good day! Especially if you like space shuttles up close along with thunder, lightning and torrential downpours. It was also a long day that started at 6 a.m. That's when I picked up my media badge at the Kennedy Space Center.

From there I headed to the media center where I basically camped out for the rest of the day with about 2,000 others. It was a beehive of activity and very importantly, a great source of air-conditioning. Laptops, microphones, cameras of every type filled every flat space and every available electrical outlet. Astronauts from previous missions mingled and gave interviews. Engineers displayed and provided info about shuttle related cargo going up.

All the while the weather still took center stage. There's still only a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions for liftoff, which stands about 10 hours from now. While the rain came and went there were still two media events that were simply incredible. There were midday and late evening photo ops out at the launch pad where Atlantis is ready to go.

To see this ship so close is really hard to put to words. It is a majestic and stunning sight. That thing aches to push off the Earth. The photo ops were quick due to the number of media rotating in and out. "20 minutes people! 10 minutes everyone! Back on the buses in 5 folks! Time to go!"

The shots are probably familiar to most interested in such images, but to be there in person was really breathtaking and awe inspiring. At one point I had to just stop snapping and just take it all in. It is a moment I'll never forget.

One final bonus of the day was a reunion. My very good friend from high school whom I hadn't seen in 25 years made it down to the launch with his own media pass. We had planned on meeting up, but neither was sure either of us would have media access. It all came together today.

Well, it's 2AM and I have to get up in an hour (what!?) because it turns out there's a crew photo event in a few hours we didn't know we'd have access to. I'm setting 3 alarms. Sorry if anyone on the west coast hears them!

Zzzzzzz...

[Web Link View the photo gallery]

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