Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Atlas V LandSat Launch!


What a ride! A bird's eye view of California and a perfect rocket launch! That was about the best mini-vacation ever. And many thanks to all the awesome people of Rogue Hill for their support, rides, and good company at meals.

When Susan and I reached Lompoc, capping a great sunny day of exhilarating flight and museum fun, we met with many other space enthusiasts from prior NASA Tweetups and Socials, though I am sad to say I missed dinner while fixing my iPhone OS! Yikes! On the day before live-tweeting an event? Really, Apple? *sigh*

LandSat 8

The next morning, we grabbed breakfasts at Starbucks (equal parts caffeine and protein!), and then headed to Providence Landing Park, where the Marine Corps band "Mobility" played snappy 1970s-80s tunes while we awaited the final launch sequence. We arrived in the frosty cold around 7:00am, or T-3 hours and counting.

NASA Socialites everywhere! A few folks spotted Bobak (aka "Mohawk Guy") and Charlie Bolden among the VIP guests, as we alternated between sitting under blankets and chatting, and occasionally roaming about to find snacks, meet soldiers and airmen, purchase military and space patches, and read the awesome NASA swag they had available about this 8th LandSat Mission.

LandSat Launch

The Atlas V-401 launch window was 10:02 to 10:50am, but at 10:02 on the dot, we all cheered and applauded as the countdown ended, and the white bird took to the skies! With my apologies for crappy camera work, the photograph you see of the "blast off" was taken amid much human noise, but almost NO ignition sound! It wasn't until a few minutes later that we heard the rumbles and roars from our vantage point on Rogue Hill.

I know some people (and 99% of them would be in my family) would ask, is it worth it to drive or fly somewhere and sit in the freezing cold with a bunch of other geeks just to watch a rocket? Um, yes. HELL YES. Emphatic, never-get-tired-of-it YES, because this is about the most amazing thing we pull off, as a species.

NASA LandSat

To see greater close-up action of the rocket and the highlights of what it takes to ensure it is launch-ready, check out the 2-minute Atlas V LCDM Highlights reel, which features clips, time-lapses and narrated MCC directives up through launch. LCDM stands for "Landsat Data Continuity Mission" the eighth in a string of increasingly-advanced satellites that have kept eyes on Earth's natural resources from space since 1972!

By now, this latest in the Landsat series has already zipped around the planet 14 times, and will continue to do so for years to come, beaming its data back to ground stations in Norway, and the American states of Alaska and South Dakota. Once it reaches 440 miles above Earth, the satellite will zip around the planet 14 times a day, snapping hundreds of pictures that will be beamed back to ground stations in South Dakota, Alaska and Norway.

LandSat VIII

After a three-month checkout period, operations will be turned over to the US Geological Survey, which intends to make images and data free on the Internet as in previous Landsat missions. Check out NASA Goddard's Landsat data archive for the various ways you can see the amazing collections of all 8 LandSats!

But hey, do you ever use Google Earth? Well, then, you've already seen and used LandSat data!

For all launch pictures, Rogue Social photos, and the flight home, check out my Vandenberg Air Force Base photo gallery at Pillownaut Picasa!