SpaceX Falcon Heavy STP-2 Launch: A Nasa Social Experience to Remember! Part 1

Friends, I’m having a hard time putting this experience into words. So let me start by saying:

IT WAS AMAZING!!

This two-day Nasa Social event was something truly special. I saw so much and learned so much, and I met the most amazing people. I got the chance to be a true space enthusiast with 54 other folks who shared a similar level of excitement for the space program. We got to take a VIP tour of Kennedy Space Center and get all the wonderful history behind the buildings and more. I enjoyed exploring the KSC Visitor Complex, which is like a small theme park for all things space:) And we had the privilege of witnessing a live launch from historic Pad 39A. Allow me to share my experience 🙂

My Arrival

I arrived into Orlando International, rented a car, and drove the 30 or so minutes to Titusville. It was blazing hot but I was excited to be there. I did a test run to the check-in location before getting some dinner and settling in for the evening. {Shout out to TownePlace Suites Kennedy Space Center for the lovely stay!}

TownePlace Suites Titusville Kennedy Space Center is a lovely, contemporary place to stay! Photo credit: Dee Dean
TownePlace Suites Titusville Kennedy Space Center is a lovely, contemporary place to stay! Photo credit: Dee Dean

Day 1 – Meet & Greet, Tech Show & A Visit to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

I woke early and pittled around until it was time to go to the check-in. I was majorly excited! I arrived and began meeting those in my cohort of 55. You could tell that everyone was glad to be there and many conversations ensued.

As we checked in we received our credentials and a bag filled with cool swag. We then had to line up our bags in a straight line for the security sweep. The police officer then brought in his police dog to go down the line, sniffing each bag. Once that was done, we were allowed to board the bus.

Our escort on the bus was a retired drill sergeant and we all loved him. He gave us the lay of the land and how the day was going to go, and he strongly urged us to not lose our credentials, or else we would not be able to enter the facility.

Our ‘class photo’ for the Nasa social Falcon Heavy STP-2 Launch Photo credit: NASA social

Once we arrived, we were taken to the News Center area, which is near the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building). I was able to get a photo of myself in from of this historic building, my first one of the day on the grounds of KSC. Then it was time for us to go into the news auditorium for the NASA Tech Show, which would be broadcast live!

Photo credit: Dee Dean

Before the Tech Show began, we were given the opportunity to officially “meet” everyone, and we just went around the room introducing ourselves. I enjoyed hearing each person share – so many different backgrounds and interests! This was a really great start to the day, and it began to connect us as a group.

We then got to hear the director from the newsroom count us down until we went live. Pretty cool! The host, Laura Aguilar, got the show started, and we got to hear from each team from four of the missions that Nasa was sending up on the Falcon Heavy. Each team took time to answer a couple of our questions after they presented. I especially enjoyed hearing from Dr. Jill Seubert and Dr. Todd Ely about the Deep Space Atomic Clock. All of these men and women were fascinatingly brilliant, and yet they explained things to us in a way that we all could understand.

From left to right: Dr. Jill Seubert, Dr. Nicola Fox, emblem for the STP-2 mission, Dr. Todd Ely. Photo credits (l to r): Michael Cain, Stephanie Thompson, Dee Dean, Dee Dean

After the Tech Show, we got back on the bus to go back to our cars. Several people went straight to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, but I went back to my hotel to eat, cool off, and rest. Not for long though, because I was excited to get to KSC!

I drove into a rainstorm, complete with sharp lightning and thunder, to get to the Complex. Then I sat in the parking lot for about 40 minutes until the storm gave way to clearer skies and less raining .

Once I got out of the car, I was like a kid in a candy store. The last time I was there was 25 years ago on my honeymoon with my hubby, and needless to say, things have changed and expanded since then! Since we had had a full day in the hot Florida sun, I knew that I could not do it all.

I decided to walk around and take a few photos. It means a lot to me to be able to capture the things I see that speak to me. Then, I went into the super gift store…wow. Everything that you could want is in there! I shopped for about an hour, and made it out with just a keychain and a magnet. In addition, which I thought was cool, there was an area upstairs where you could meet and greet with a former astronaut.

Photo credit: Dee Dean

I then headed over to the Atlantis exhibit. Several of the people in my group had highly recommended that one, and since I enjoy anything about space shuttles, I was in. I was not disappointed. I watched the short movie presentation, and then it led us right into the display room…with the Atlantis shuttle suspended from the ceiling! I was a little surprised at the emotion that the experience elicited from me upon seeing this shuttle up close . I slowed down, took a few photos, and read the displays. I also saw an actual size mock up of the Hubble telescope. Be still my beating heart!

Photo credit: Dee Dean

My last stop was the memorial rooms for the crews of Challenger and Columbia. I was moved to tears. I lived through both of those events as a teenager and as an adult, and I have read and watched a lot about the tragic events that took the lives of these astronauts. However, this was the first time that I was able to really learn about their lives beyond just the space program. Each astronaut has his or her own display case of personal effects that their families donated. This was a very special space, and I wanted to take time there to honor their memory.

As I exited the memorial rooms, I realized that I was spent emotionally, and that I needed to make my way back to the hotel to decompress a bit. I headed to the car and drove back, got some dinner, and settled in to power down and sleep. Day 1 was in the books, and it had been a good one.

Day 2 was going to bring a whole ‘nother level of excitement , so I wanted to be as ready and rested as I could be!

If you enjoyed reading this, please share it with someone who might be interested in a NASA social event, thanks 🙂  Read on here for Part 2….Launch Day!

3 Replies to “SpaceX Falcon Heavy STP-2 Launch: A Nasa Social Experience to Remember! Part 1”

  1. Wow! Sounds like a great first day. We were there in December and I was also moved to tears a few times! The facility is beautiful and the space program is so amazing to me!

    1. I’m tickled that we share a love for the space program, Heidi. Glad you all got to visit just a short while ago!

  2. […] Day 1 of my NASA social experience was big fun, informative…and hot! {For the record, according to the locals, it was an unusually hot day that day.} If you missed the details of my day, click here to catch up on Part 1. […]

Leave a Reply