Balloon over Home

Waiting for the Whooooosh

Whoosh….whoosh. Taking out the garbage Monday evening, July 15th, 2019 I heard the unmistakable sound of a liquid propane burner. As the propane is gasified and ignited, the flame and exhaust are directed into the balloon, all under control of the human operator. What a sound!!

These past years, hot air balloons started launching from West Hill and, when the breeze (balloons never launch in winds, as far as I know) is right the balloon and gondola full of passengers drift in the direction of our home. More than one time, directly overhead, I estimate 200 feet away. We could clearly see and converse with the passengers. What fun.

Each previous viewing I regretted not filming the balloon as the vision floated away. Last Monday, I dropped everything (not literally, I did leave the garbage in the bin), mounted the Canon lens EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM on a EOS 1Ds Mark III body, returning to the north side of our property as the balloon emerged from the trees, only the envelope visible.

We have enjoyed this balloon before, the envelope pattern evokes a classic Navajo Rug, the colors really pop against the blue sky.

Why the Whooooosh?

Tourists and local residents pay $230 per person for the experience of floating silently over Finger Lakes landscape with a launch from Trumansburg, ending up over Ithaca, in its valley surrounded by hills. Cayuga Lake is visible the entire flight, to the east, then northeast as the path reaches Ithaca. As they approached the balloon elevation was not so high relative to our home. You can see this clearly in the first photograph. With the zoom on 300 mm I was almost able to look into the basket, each of the four riders (the operation, looking at a cell phone, and three passengers) was recognizable.

There are three propane burners, two in front and the edge of a third just visible between the front pair.

Ethereal silence and reveres are broken when the burner lights up. Here it appears only one burner is running, sending the craft high above us.

Seven of the forty images are shared here. The duration was three minutes. With a goal of capturing the action, I had the camera on burst mode, with the shutter pressed the exposures run serially, in close succession.

I perfected these seven photographs to represent the perfection of this colorful event as it passed from the northwest, disappearing in the tree line to the southeast.

I am listening for the next event, camera and lens ready.

Post script….it was my usual early morning blogging time when I heard the familiar Whooooosshh, whoooosssshhh, grabbed my IPhone for a video and captured the following. You will hear the gondola occupants chatting. The burner was turned on at 1:03 when the balloon was fairly distant. The Whoooosssshhhh is low, but audible.

Today, they were headed North/Northwest in the opposite direction from Monday and are backlit. Enjoy!!

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved

Sunset Visions of Kite Surfing

One day before the 2019 Total Lunar Eclipse a full moon rose 4:25 pm above the Atlantic Ocean off Cocoa Beach, the “Space Coast” of Florida. We saw a power kite to the south, with the southerly winds there was time before he was on us. I took the following photographs with what was at hand, an iPhone 8.

Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset

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At 50 minutes post moonrise, I included the orb in this frame as the rider tacked, rising a water crest.

Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset
Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset

A flick of the fingers to zoom in, the moon and rider are together as he rides toward shore.

Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset with cruise ship
Risen Full Moon and Surf Boarder at Sunset with cruise ship

This time of, Saturdays, the cruise ships depart Cape Canaveral Port. The kite is above the distant ship. It is amazing the kite allows sailing into the wind, his heading is southwest. The shore limits his progress, forcing a tack towards a southeast heading.

Kite Surfer coming to shore at sunset.
Kite Surfer coming to shore at sunset.

Or not, it seems he plans to tack to the northeast, continuing progress north up the coast. I have to wonder how he will return to the starting point?

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Kite Surfing Action Series

three shots in one second

For a change of scene we visited Cape Canaveral, the beach at Cherie Down Park were an informal gathering of Kite Surfers was underway. Here is a series of action shots, one second elapsed from first to last.

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Conditions were excellent: good northerly wind, the sun overcast and, it being afternoon, in the west. Surfers stayed relatively close to shore, near their starting point. I had packed the “heavy gun” camera with a tripod.

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Panning the scene (swiveling on the tripod), the camera in rapid exposure mode, I pressed the shutter release and held it down.

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The surfer was captured mid-jump to landing.


Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Introduction of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse

Here is the first in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral. All were taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. Google the foundation for details of future tours. Here we enjoy several views of the lighthouse with historical and maritime background.

Daymark

The lighthouse is in the background (to the left of diving osprey) of this photograph from a previous posting, “Dive!!.” The structure exists to warn ships of dangerous, shallow shoals that begin 13.5 miles from the cape. The visible pattern of the tower, called daymark, identifies it as the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. From here it is a little more than 10 miles distant, so its daymark is visible to alert observers from beyond the most distant shoals on a clear day.

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Lighthouse Daymark from 10.1 miles

The daymark for this lighthouse is black and white stripes of a specific width, it is unique and visible long distances depending on the weather. The black lantern room (top of tower) is also a daymark element. At night, the light is identified by the frequency of flashes.

Photograph by Pam Wills from her Samsung Galaxy

Brief History

The historical sign is a good beginning. I love to photograph these details.
There is a story behind this monument, the top plaque duplicates much of the sign text given above. Here is the text from the side plaque: “Composed of bricks from the Original Cape Lighthouse. Built by Eagle Scout Kenneth Wyse, Troop 705 (in the year) 2002.”

Lighthouse Portrait

The angle of the first lighthouse photograph is very appealing, though this one is superior for documentary purposes. The structure is two shells. The exterior shell is cast-iron panels, each numbered for disassembly/reassembly in the event the structure must be moved. Inside is a shell of fired clay bricks with an air space between shells. As is captioned in the preceeding photograph, the monument is constructed of bricks from the first installation. The lighthouse was moved in the 19th century due to changing shoreline.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Queen Victoria Arrival

Little did they know what lay in store….

Pam and I walked from Cheri Down park this morning of February 2020 to Jetty Park where we were fortuitous witnesses to the arrival of the Cunard ship Queen Victoria on an 84-day cruise around South America.

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I used my IPhone 7 to capture the event. Understanding the context of a ship’s arrival opens a whole new world. Standing on the pier I researched the voyage.

Here is the list of ports on the itinerary. These include the Caribbean, Central America and many of the same ports visited on the 2016 Oceania cruise Pam and I enjoyed from Lima, Peru to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Hamburg, Germany
Southampton, England
Kings Wharf, Bermuda
Port Canaveral, Florida
 Fort Lauderdale, Florida
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Bridgetown, Barbados
Manaus, Brazil
Santarem, Brazil
Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Montevideo, Uruguay
Buenos Aires, rgentina
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Ushuaia, Argentinia
Cape Horn, Chile
Punta Arenas, Chile
Puerto Montt, Chile
San Antonio, Chile
Coquimbo, Chile
Arica, Chile
Callao (Lima), Peru
 Manta, Ecuador
 Panama City, Panama
Panama Canal, Panama
Cartagena, Columbia
Willemstad, Dutch Antiles
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Ponta Delgada, Azores
Southampton, England
Hamburg, Germany

Little did they or we know the happy voyage was destined to terminate and return.

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

French Tourists at Kennedy Space Center

In the Rocket Garden

A group of French tourists…

SONY DSC

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…posing for a group photograph….

SONY DSC

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…in the Rocket Garden….

SONY DSC

….of Kennedy Space Center, March 2017.

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Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved Michael Stephen Wills

Space Shuttle Prototypes, Mock-ups and other Models

a lotta high tech concrete

Here are some thoughts on various physical representations of the iconic Space Shuttle we encountered during our travels.

Vision

Dr. Maxime “Max” Faget joined NASA in 1958, where he headed the group that designed America’s first manned spacecraft, the Mercury capsule. In 1969, Dr. Faget was the director of engineering and development at NASA. On April 1, 1969, Dr. Max Faget tossed this balsa wood toy toward his team of engineers hard at work landing a man on the moon. During this time Dr. Faget’s team also began creating a revolutionary space vehicle for NASA. “We’re going to build America’s next spacecraft. And it’s going to launch like a spacecraft. It’s going to land like a plane.” –text from Kennedy Space Center display, see following.

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Mock-up on fire

The Space Shuttle life size model still in use for fire training at Station #2 at the Shuttle Landing Facility.

Two Inspirations

April 29, 2016 – Almost five years after NASA’s last space shuttle landed in Florida, an orbiter returned to the runway at the Kennedy Space Center. The model orbiter “Inspiration” was rolled out to Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility on Wednesday (April 27), where it will be rebuilt into a traveling exhibit. The full-scale mockup was previously on display at the now-former location of the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in Titusville. LVX System, which acquired the 122-foot-long (37 meter) shuttle replica from NASA, moved the Inspiration from the Hall to a work yard in January. The company, which has an agreement with NASA to study visual light communication for deep space missions, intends to use the space shuttle as a vehicle for both educational outreach and marketing. “Over the past four months, work has been done to bolster the shuttle’s structure and aesthetics in preparation for the move this week, an LVX spokesperson said.” – from the “Collect Space” web site

The “Inspiration” model of my photograph, from our 2018 Shuttle Landing Facility visit, is a second Space Shuttle mock-up built by Kennedy Space Center carpenters from a rocket booster body.

Happy Birthday

Three birthday cakes Pam Wills created with input from grandson Kayvon. He helped to decorate the cakes. Featured is the Cape Canaveral lighthouse with launch sites, Kennedy Space Center launch site 39A with the shuttle and rockets. Foreground, in partial view is a tableau of the 1969 moon landing.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Mercury 7 Pre-Launch Facilities

Hosting Astronaut ZZZZZZZ’s and much more

Here is the sixth in a series of photographs centered on the early history of space flight on Cape Canaveral mostly taken during a tour organized by the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation. “Google” the foundation for details of future tours. Here we explore pre-launch support for the Mercury program, including the first USA Orbital Launch of John Glenn from Launch Complexe 14 (LC 14).

Overview

Leaving LC 1 – 4 (see Post WWII Launch Complexes”), our bus turned onto Central Control Road passing construction on Launch Complex 36 (LC36). In 2015 Blue Origin (Amazon money) leased LC36 where it planned to launch the “New Glenn” vehicle after 2020. I snapped the churned-up sand and construction equipment, not interesting at all IMHO.

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Corner of Central Control and ICBM Roads. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The “New Glenn” was named in homage to John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth in 1962. We turned right onto to ICBM Road, headed generally north, following a string of launch complexes along the Altantic shore toward Launch Complex 14 (LC14). A dissapointment was not stopping to walk the Mercury 7 Memorial at the corner of ICBM Road and LC14. Our bus stopped briefly enough for the following snap. It is a memorial because John Glenn, the surviving member of Mercury 7, passed away December 8, 2016 at the age of 95.

Mercury 7 Memorial, just off ICBM Road

I will cover at length the Mercury-Atlas vehicle that powered John Glenn into orbit February 20, 1962. The tie-in between ICBM road and this series of launch complexes is the early space missions were on re-purposed Intercontinental Ballistic Missles (thus, ICBM). “Atlas” is the name of the ICBM used for Colonel Glenn’s 1962 flight. Click on the following image to find labled pushpins for the corner of Central Control and ICBM Roads (upper right), the road to LC14 and Mercury 7 Memorial.

You will also find a pushpin for the Skid Strip, bottom just to right of center. The earliest cruise missle tests (see “Cruise Missles” and Post WWII Launch Complexes” ) included navigation to a landing on non-wheeled “skids.” The strip was maintained in support of the manned and later missions when cargo planes delivered the early space capsules, landing, not skidding hopefully, for transfer to a Pre-Launch facility, Hangar S.

Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 14 and Pre-Launch Support: Hangar S and the Skid Strip

Hangar S is seen below as we passed later in the tour. Built 1957 by the military the 61,300 square feet were acquired by NASA in 1959. The early space capsules were tested here in an vacume chamber to ensure the vehicle supported an breathable atmosphere for the occupants.

The first American space voyager was Ham, a chimpanzee. Ham lived in a residential area on the second floor of Hangar S. For a period of time the Mercury 7 shared the spartan second floor quarters. “The Right Stuff” (a 1984 film from a Tom Wolfe book) included scenes from this episode of the program.

Constructed in 1957, Hangar S served for pre-flight processing from Mercury through the final flight of the Space Shuttle. This is where the Mercury 7 astronauts were first quartered on the second floor and later, is where they stayed prior to flight. The Lunar Orbiter was prepared here.

Comfortable Quarters

In short order arrangements were made for more comfortable quarters, just off the ocean in Cocoa Beach. It was a new hotel given over entirely to the Mercury 7. Pam and I stayed there in 2018 while taking this tour, it is the La Quinta across from the International Palms. We recommend it a clean, comfortable, reasonably price and a great story to share afterwards. The Atlantic Ocean is a five minute walk.

La Quinta Inn was the home of the Mercury 7 Astronauts, 1275 N Atlantic Avenue Cocoa Beach, Florida 32931

I learned from the tour how the hotel was donated to the Mercury 7 by a private individual. They owned the hotel. Here is a very informative sign just off the La Quinta lobby with their names. Each first mission, as named by the astronaut, is listed.

La Quinta Inn was the home of the Mercury 7 Astronauts, 1275 N Atlantic Avenue Cocoa Beach, Florida 32931
View of the hotel built for and first owned by the Marcury 7 astronauts. They lived here in the early days of the USA space program.

Blastoff!!

Next post will feature images of LC14 from 2018.

Launch of Friendship 7, the first American manned orbital space flight. Astronaut John Glenn aboard, the Mercury-Atlas rocket is launched from Pad 14. Public Domain Photograph by NASA.

ClickMe for the next post in this series, “Launch Complex 14 Today.”

ClickMe for the first post in this series, “Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.”

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words John Glenn, Launch Complex 14, Mercury-Atlas, Launch Complex 36. Plus a “google” on “Hangar S History” that found an excellent page hosted on the NASA site. Cover photo of Friendship 7 Launch my be found on Flickr in “NASA on the Commons” photostream.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Shuttle Landing Facility

a lotta high tech concrete

We left our Cocoa Beach hotel in the pre-dawn hours of February 6, 2018, with our tickets in hand for the first launch of Space X’s “Falcon Heavy”, our reward for arriving early was a spot on the third bus.

Tooling Around

On the way to our final destination, the Apollo-Saturn V center, we were privileged to visit the Shuttle Landing Facility. Here are a few snapshots from the bus.

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Preparing for the Worst

A Smooth Landing

Aside from holding the record for world’s longest runway, the surface itself exceptionally engineered, consisting of an extremely high-friction concrete strip designed to maximize the braking ability of the Space Shuttle at its high landing speed, with a paving thickness of 16.0 inches (40.6 cm) at the center. It uses a grooved design to provide drainage and further increase the coefficient of friction. The original groove design was found to actually provide too much friction for the rubber used in the Shuttle’s tires, causing failures during several landings. This issue was resolved by grinding down the pavement, reducing the depth of the grooves significantly

Atlantis plaque on the access pathway along the Shuttle Landing Facility. It reads “STS-135 Atlantis Final Landing 7/21/2011. Nose Gear Whell Stop – RWY 15 – 11,361 Feet. Missions Flown- 33 ; Days in Space – 307 ; Miles Flown – 125 Million

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words “STS-107” as well as the official web site for Kennedy Space Center Fire Department.

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.

Bald Eagle Nest

Painful Memories

Our Shuttle Landing Facility side trip brought us twice by one of the five Bald Eagle nests around Kennedy Space Center. The entire Center land is part of the National Wildlife Refuge of Merrit Island. Rockets and wildlife coexist very well, in fact the Shuttle Landing Facility is also known as the Gator Tanning Facility. The reptiles crawl up from the canals surrounding the landing strip on all four sides to bask on the smooth concrete.

First Turn

The nest tree is on the median of a divided highway. Driving into the Landing Facility the nest tree was to the east, brightly lit by the morning sun.

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Second Turn

On the return trip the nest was backlit. Look closely: the head of an eaglet (?) is just visible above the nest rim.

The parent eagle is silhouetted in the tree branches.

Sources of information for this post: I used information from the Wikipedia site for the key words “STS-107.”

Copyright 2022 Michael Stephen Wills All Rights Reserved.