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Orbiter Endeavour Prepares for the After Life

Orbiter Endeavour Prepares for the After Life
Travel Planning
I didn’t plan on ever showing this photo. In fact, I didn’t plan on ever doing any processing of this photo. You see, NASA has this way of simultaneously exciting and disappointing me. For instance, I wanted to get a photo of the Space Shuttle on the launch pad. Being somewhat anal-retentive about preparation, I called up to inquire about what I’d see, since they enclose the orbiter to protect it while it’s on the pad. However, I was assured that the orbiter would be in view on a specific day and I booked my tour to go take my photos. The first announcement they made on the tour was that we wouldn’t see the orbiter itself, so I came home with this photo (williambeem.com/2011/04/29/our-last-endeavour/).

On the occasion of the last shuttle launch, I really wanted to photograph the rollout. Once again, I called and did my preparation in advance, filled out forms, etc. On the day before the rollout, I called to confirm my application again and was told they gave me the wrong form. I was very pleased to find a pleasant lady on the other side who was willing to work with me to get my application approved. She asked me to gather some info and call her back. I did, called back and someone else answered the phone. I asked for the nice lady, but “someone else” killed my dreams that day by telling me there was no way they were going to approve my access for a photo., and then she hung up.

When Kennedy Space Center started including the Vehicle Assembly Building on a tour again, my friends and I signed up and went out with high expectations. The tour was, once again, less than we expected. I almost didn’t get this photo (williambeem.com/2011/11/08/this-way-to-infinity-and-beyond/), but it worked out at the last moment before we had to leave and go to the area where you see the image above.

You could almost hear a collective gasp of disappointment. There we were in this great building with the Endeavour Orbiter before us as it was being prepared for display at New York’s Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum. We were standing on a space geek’s hallowed ground with part of the holy trinity before us – one of the last orbiters…and our view was blocked by not one, but two fences.

NASA had its own trinity of protection. First, there was a yellow painted line. We were not allowed outside the confines of that line, and nobody went out of bounds on our tour. Just behind that line was a knee-high, bright orange plastic fence. If you somehow got past the yellow line before one of the security people watching us could tackle you, then you had to also hop over that fence. However, someone at NASA probably decided it was insufficient, so the next barrier was a six-foot high metal fence, as you can see at the bottom of the photo. If that fence wasn’t insulting enough, it was covered with plastic notices, signs, and other ugly obstructions of the view. Kennedy Space Center touted that you could see one of the orbiters on this tour, but they never promised you’d get a very good look at it.

A recent news story showed the last time that Atlantis was powered down, just another step to the end of an era. That got me thinking about these images again, and my curiosity was piqued as to how it would look after processing. I’m still heartbroken about that damn fence, but I’ve decided just part of the story. You can go this far, no farther. Many other photographers can relate to that feeling. We all clamor for access, but only a select few can realistically achieve it. With that in mind, I was very impressed with +Ali Elhajj. He wanted access and made it happen. Check out his photos on Google+.

I’m still disappointed with my own efforts to photograph the wonderful stuff at Kennedy Space Center, but Ali gives me hope. There’s a way to get inside, but we have to be creative and persistent. Way to go, Ali.

Please visit the blog at williambeem.com

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