Friday, 8 July 2011

Rocket roll

Excitement and anticipation at the press site mounted as the minutes towards countdown rolled back and it looked as if the cloud cover might thin out just in time.

Now to choose a spot and set up the camera tripod. I wasn’t really here to take photos but if the cameras were pointing in the right direction they could do their business unattended while I viewed the launch unencumbered. And at least I would have some of my own pictures of the moment too.

I wanted to shoot a general view of liftoff with the amassed crowd in the foreground, along with the famous countdown clock and flag - my Nikon D70 was mounted atop the tripod for still views and a Fuji compact for movie footage was wrapped around the stem using a mini Gorillapod.

Astronomy and space lecturer Andy Green, from Cambridge in the UK, was just behind me and to the side was Steven Kates, known as ‘Dr Sky’, a TV and radio broadcaster in the US with a mission to ‘educate and entertain the world on all that is in the sky’. This was his first live launch and he kept us entertained with live pre-launch reports and commentaries.

As I’d left before the crack of dawn without any breakfast and we still had an hour or so of the countdown to go so there was time to visit the legendary NASA Snack Mobile parked amongst the US TV outside broadcast wagons, with their giant satellite dishes and bright logos.


The Snack Mobile looks like it has been around since the days of Apollo and, it being NASA, you kind of hope it might sell some kind of magical space food.

Adding to its mystique is the fact that the van only ever appears on launch days - so its future appearances now seem even more restricted, at least in the near term.

Entry is through the back and once inside you can select hot snacks from stainless steel pull-out drawers and drinks from a chiller before paying the lady sitting in the driver’s seat at the front.

Rather than fancy astronaut food I settled for a burger in a soft bun and an ice cold can of Sprite. The food was actually quite tasty (or maybe I was just so hungry). But that is not what really counts - more the fact that you’ve actually stepped inside and made a purchase from the famed NASA Snack Mobile.


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