Shuttle launch trip report:
Discovery May 31, 2008:
There are only ten shuttle launches scheduled for the remainder of the shuttle program. After watching shuttle launches since the inception of the program from the roof of the building where I worked or my back yard I decided that once before the program ended I should go see one up close and personal. I left Kissimmee around 12:45 PM for a 5:02 PM launch. I arrived at Space View Park in Titusville around 2:00 PM, three hours before launch. The parking lot was almost full and many of the best viewing spaces were already taken. I did, however, get an excellent spot, but I did not have enough room put out the beach chair or tripod I brought with me. I will upload the photos and you can see for yourself the quality of the location I was able to get. Had I arrived fifteen minutes later, I would not have been so lucky. I did not encounter any traffic on the way to Titusville, but I would still recommend planning on arriving earlier than three hours before scheduled launch time for the best viewing.
There is a Burger King and a Kentucky Fried Chicken adjacent to the park and some of the local civic organizations had food vending tents set up in the park so once you find your spot, one person can guard it while the rest of the party goes for food. It is a long wait. It did rain not long after I arrived, but fortunately I was in the Burger King at the time. Do not forget your sunscreen or your hat!
Many people who have witnessed the launches have complained about the traffic. Yes, there was traffic and lots of it on the return. I dallied about three quarters of an hour before departing and even then delayed my leaving so I could take pictures of a nest of ospreys on a power pole over looking the parking lot. I hit stop and go traffic all the way to I-95. Once on I-95 southbound the traffic was light and stayed light until I hit 701 where it plugged right up. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed on I-95 all the way to 192 and come back that way, but 192 could have been as messed up as 528 turned out to be. It took two and a half hours to make the drive I made in one and a quarter hours in the other direction.
Having done this once, I am glad I did, but I doubt I would do it again. It was as beautiful as I expected it to be, but I expected it to be louder. I guess where I watched from was about ten miles from the launch site and the sound of the launch took almost a minute to reach us. At that point it was almost an afterthought and certainly not as impressive as I had hoped it would be.
So, for those of you who have witnessed the launch from a balcony or a rooftop in Orlando, do not feel deprived that you have not witnessed it from the other side of the Intracoastal. Perhaps seeing it from on property at KSC would be better, but lacking that, this was fun, but not worth doing twice.