If You Go: Final Shuttle Launch
Going to see Atlantis blast off for the final time next week? Here's what you need to know.
Planning to attend the final launch of space shuttle Atlantis on July 8, or just thinking about going?
First of all, we'd like to hear from you — e-mail Patch editor Jason Bartolone so we can talk to you for a possible story or to share your photos with us.
And secondly, here's what you need to know:
Why should I go?
It's a chance to see history. NASA is retiring its space shuttle program, to be replaced with a new space exploration program focused on sending astronauts to deep space and asteroids. STS-135 is the final space shuttle mission.
When is it?
Atlantis is scheduled to blast off at 11:26 a.m. on Friday, July 8, but the time and date are always subject to change. As NASA likes to remind us, "Launching humans into space is a very complex business," and many different factors can cause a delay or postponement.
Where is it?
The shuttle takes off from Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island, north-northwest of Cape Canaveral. That's on the east coast of Florida, just to the east of Orlando. According to Mapquest.com, from Bloomingdale, it's 131 miles, a 2-hour, 21-minute drive.
How do I get there?
Here are detailed directions, but in a nutshell, from the Tampa area you'll take I-4 East toward Orlando, then jump on a few state roads to cut across the state.
Do I need tickets?
Only if you want to watch from the official viewing areas at the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex — and they're sold out. There are a number of tickets for sale on eBay, with some two-ticket packages going for upward of $1,000.
You should note that the official "VIP" area is much closer to the launch than the "causeway" viewing area about six miles away, so tickets being sold as "VIP causeway" may be a bit misleading.
Where can I watch if I don't have a ticket?
There are lots of prime viewing areas that NASA recommends. Here are some:
Jetty Park at Port Canaveral:
Located along the Atlantic Ocean just south of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station border. The park is open all day year-round. Visit jettypark.org or call 321-783-7111 for more information.
Along the Indian River on U.S. Highway 1 in Titusville:
- Marina Park, 501 Marina Road, Titusville
- Sand Point Park, 101 N. Washington Ave., Titusville
- Space View Park, 8 Broad St., Titusville
- Manzo Park, 3335 S. Washington Ave. (U.S. 1), Titusville
- Rotary Riverfront Park, 4141 S. Washington Ave. (U.S. 1), Titusville
- Kennedy Point Park, 4915 S. Washington Ave. (U.S. 1), Titusville
Along State Road A1A along the Atlantic Ocean in Cocoa Beach:
- Cocoa Beach Pier, 401 Meade Ave., Cocoa Beach
- Alan Shepard Park, East end of S.R. 520, Cocoa Beach
- Fischer Park, East side of S.R. A1A, ½ mile south of S.R. 520
- Lori Wilson Park, 1500 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach
Can I get a hotel room?
Many area hotels sell out in advance of the launch, but you can try. Find hotel information for nearby Cocoa Beach, Melbourne and Titusville at www.space-coast.com. Orlando and Daytona Beach are also within driving distance. And expect heavy traffic on the roads surrounding Kennedy Space Center on launch day.
What should I bring?
- Camera, memory card, battery, tripod
- Cooler with ice, bottled water, snacks
- Hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, bandana/towel
- Cell phone/smartphone and charger (if you’re a space geek, check out the Spacevidcast wiki’s list of space & science apps
I can't attend in person. How else can I follow along?
Check out Patch before and after the launch for stories and photos from Kennedy Space Center and to hear from local people who are attending.
Most local TV news stations will show live coverage of the launch, but you can catch full coverage online at NASA TV.
You can also follow the live tweets from folks at the NASA Tweetup, a gathering of 150 Twitter fans who will share their experiences using the hashtag #NASATweetup.
And you can always look to the sky and try to catch a glimpse of the launch. If you know of any good spots around town for checking out a shuttle launch, let us know in the comments below.