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Getting to the 3-mile view

Original post made by Todd Heapy, Downtown North, on Jul 5, 2011

In the months I've had to make my plans for viewing the launch I have done a lot of research on places to best see a launch from. Of course, there's miles of Florida coastline in which to stand along. It all depends on how close or far you want to be. You can see a launch from hundreds of miles away if you so chose. My goal was to get as close as possible without actually being an astronaut, since there was clearly no time for that kind of training now.

The closest you can view a launch without any special access or ticket is about 12 miles. That's basically the nearest main shoreline along the coast centered around Titusville. The launch complex sits on a cape offshore. The pad is on the far eastern side of that. The next closest you can get is by winning a lottery that allows you to buy tickets to see from either a roadway they close for launches or the Kennedy Space Center visitor center. Those are each about 6 miles away from the pad.

As you could imagine, demand is very high. Odds are very low. One last way for the public to get closer than either of those is through your congressperson. They each get a VIP area pass, which is about 3 miles from the pad. Since most don't go they release them to their constituents. You email or call them and get on the list. I did that. I was number 3,100 for one pass. Needless to say I haven't heard from any of my congresspeople. Again with the long odds.

One last area is the media viewing area which is not accessible to the general public. This is also about 3 miles from the pad. I figured this was actually the least of all places I'd get any access to since I'm not a member of the media, although I am a great consumer of it. I guess that doesn't count. I'm really not happy with this 12 mile thing, however. I've seen the photos shot from there, and it's just not what I was hoping for. After all, NASA was created so I could shoot some nice photos from pretty close up. All those thoughtful astronauts trained for my viewing pleasure, right?

But ... what if?? Game on.

Now I'm thinking I'll look into a way to get a VIP pass or a media pass. This animation company I mentioned I work for might have some ins. We create media. There might be a connection. Turns out, that's not the case. Media and journalism are not the same thing. I thought it was worth a shot.

Another thought is that people that run my company are pretty well connected. They know people that know people! Maybe I could convince someone I'm worthy of a VIP pass. I send an email to the marketing president. She doesn't know me, but she responds! With enthusiasm even. She's a busy person, but offers to look into my left field request. Over the next two weeks emails fly all over the place, and her team keeps me in the loop on the progress. Someone's got a cousin who works for NASA, Steven Spielberg connections and White House contacts are both mentioned.

Connections are happening! It's just a matter of time before I'm sipping some Dom and snapping photos from my air-conditioned platform. Alas, that is not the case. It dead ends. Shut down. No luck. Nada. Back to 12 miles for me.

I'm not giving up quite that easily. Think ... think ... think. I go back to the media idea. I'm going to the launch at my own expense, and maybe there could be a partnership of some kind. Can I cover the event in exchange for a media pass? I get in touch with the nice people here at the Palo Alto Weekly and we talk over a period of several weeks. It seems we can work something out. They are intrigued with my determination. We agree I will write this blog for them and they will help me with my media pass!

I still didn't know at this point if it would actually get approved on the NASA side. I had read only larger journalism outlets can get passes. I submit my info ... and ... voila! Approved! 3 miles!!

[Web Link View the photo gallery]

Comments (1)

Like this comment
Posted by Val and Kenney
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 6, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Todd! So wish we could have snuck in with you via your luggage or some other legit means. Thanks for doing this blog for those of us who can't be at the 3-mile marker. V and K

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