Saturday, October 24, 2009
THE EXTERNAL TANK TRANSITS THE CANAVERAL LOCK
2009 10 24- This morning my friend Tony and I got up at about 7 and grabbing a cup of coffee for him and tea for me, we headed out and over to the Canaveral Lock to watch as the Space Shuttle External tank made its passage from the Atlantic ocean and into the Banana River for the final leg of its journey from Michaud in new Orleans where it was built, to Kennedy Space center where it will be mated and power the flight of STS-134 some time in the future.
The sea journey comprised the Liberty Star, a specially built and equipped NASA ocean tug pulling the barge that carried the actual External Tank, ET, the large orange tank that powers the shuttle on its rise to orbit.
My friend ‘Captain Nemo’ from NOLA is one of the engineers that builds the ET, and formerly built part of the Saturn V, and hopefully will be building part of the Aries system, and he informed me earlier in the week that the barge had left NOLA, knowing I had wanted to catch it going through the locks. He also passed on to me two URL’s, one showing the loading of the ET into its special barge:
and the second to a blog being posted by the captain of the Liberty Star and Steve, a NASA Media Relations pro along for the voyage. I had been reading their reports and they are absolutely fascinating, tying in all bits of related history going right back to Columbus and as far forward as the International Space Station- just incredible stuff.
Having to travel three hours from my home to get to the locks, I was determined to pin down a time for the lock transit and it was on Friday morning that Steve dropped me a private message saying simply “Saturday- 7am.” I read that and headed over to Tony’s! He lives in Melbourne, about ten miles south of the lock.
We arrived at the locks and joined the few other people who were there, the lock operator, Connie, the Mom and wife and son of one of the crew of the Liberty Star, and a couple of workers from United Space Associates who were there in an official capacity to help tie the boats up during their brief hold in the lock.
We had ‘front row seats’ right on the rail and I set up my tripod and small camera set to video, and also had my 10X zoom Olympus for still shots. It was not long until we saw the drawbridge of A1A open and the Liberty Star coming through. Because of the size of the vessels and the lock it had to come through by itself, and the barge at this point would be handled by two regular tugs once the lock cleared again.
When the Barge, the Pegasus, came thorough, there were a few men gathered on the bridge and I thought to call out if bone was Steve. The shout came back that he was down below. I returned to pass on my thanks top him from Jud.
Some time later after the huge building on a boat had passed completely into the locks and been secured, I heard someone call out my name, and turned to see Steve up on deck waving to me! We exchanged a few words across the space between and he disappeared back into the interior.
I was very surprised to see that the tarp that covered the back end ‘door’ of the housing was not a solid but was see-through and so we were able to actually see the back end of the ET inside!
We watched as it finished its passes through the locks and made ht right turn for KSC, locatable by the distinctive Vehicle Assembly Build (VAB) off in the distance. We watched for some time, then headed out and caught another view off the side of one of the roads near Port Canaveral, where I also grabbed a couple of shots of the Disney Magic and its crewman Goofy doing some touch up work on the stern.
39 new photos at: