STS-99 Launch Viewing

or, once again a VIP

January 31 - February 1
February 11, 2000

(also see STS-93 launch report)
(also see STS-101 launch report)

(also see STS-121 roll-out report)

NASA Mission Details

Last modified: July 07, 2008

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Shuttle launch
photography advice 
(with more pictures)


img0060.jpg (78496 bytes)img0058.jpg (93809 bytes)In January 2000, I was fortunate enough to get a VIP invitation for the STS-99 shuttle launch viewing. Half the Apple WebObjects team and some close friends were on the guest list, and so we set sail and flew across the US, from CA to FL, to - stand in pouring rain. Yes, the VIP tour was nice, but not as nice as with my STS-93 visit, because this time the service structure was covering the shuttle and you couldn't see too much. So at least we got a group picture of the WO team at Launch Pad 39A, from up close and personal.

img0042.jpg (77653 bytes)img0043.jpg (82405 bytes)The next day, during the scheduled launch window, it was pouring. Very nasty. The bleachers were free of people - I was among the four stubborn people who decided to sit tight and wait, this wet wait being part of the whole experience. The wusses were all in the Saturn V building nearby, enjoying hot dogs and the company of astronauts.

img0047.jpg (94685 bytes)img0059.jpg (102236 bytes)It was not just the rain which lead to a launch cancellation - a technical issue had to be resolved, and the whole launch got scrubbed for some 10 days. So, a week later, we again showed up by the countdown clock - some same people, while some could not justify to make the trek twice and sent replacement instead. This time the weather was nicer - much nicer; several of us rain used Californians suffered under sunstroke and looked like lobsters. The bleachers were full of people supporting their favorite astronauts or simply enjoying the view.

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A group of Japanese guests showing support for Japanese astronaut Mohri


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The Sound Suppression System water tank is overflowing


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Some of us suffered a minor heat stroke, while others were better prepared...


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This is how it looks like when you run out of film a second too early. You have no idea how much I hate myself for this screwup, especially since friends told me how to do it right!

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Multiple exposure
8 shots superimposed over a time interval of about 2 minutes


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The crowd is viewing the launch just around SRB separation

img0055.jpg (104440 bytes)img0056.jpg (106563 bytes)The countdown proceeded more or less flawlessly. Just before launch the water tower, supplying 400,000 gallons of water for the sound suppression system, started overflowing / leaking, raising new concerns among us guests; but it was later explained as a normal phenomenon. So finally, we witnessed the launch. Me, trying to take perfect pictures from the VIP site, managed to screw up again. It's something different each time - I just need to get it right once... I ran out of film! The camera shoots at 6 frames per second, and stupid me pressed the release too early - the last picture shows the shuttle just barely clearing the tower, still partially covered by the lightning rod. Oops.  I also shot a multi-exposure, showing the shuttle over an interval of about three minutes of flight.

All in all, again a great experience - if I just didn't screw up my photography in such a stupid way...

Shuttle launch photography advice (with pictures)

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