Years ago I worked as a contractor for NASA. I worked on the first "A" or the Aeronautical side of NASA. I made a few trips to other NASA Centers and one of the coolest was to see a shuttle launch. Well, it was a launch attempt – it got called at T minus 4 seconds (APU didn't start).
I saw lots of Shuttle landings however because in those years after the Challenger launch disaster the commission decided that all future shuttle landings should be at Edwards Air force Base in California where Lura and I worked. In fact we got really good at timing it exactly right. We knew exactly how many minutes before touchdown to leave our desks, walk down the hall, out onto the tarmac…..wait for it, Double sonic boom and there it was, practically coming straight down into a radical flair and landing… Total time away from desk -about 10 minutes. We always hit it perfectly because; there are no "go arounds" for the shuttle.
I still maintain a connection to that world through my Aviation Week subscription.. Most I don't read, but every once in a while it shows me something cool and awe inspiring. This month one of the Aviation Week Blogs has a series of photos of them "stacking" the shuttle in the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). This is the same place they stacked the massive Saturn V rockets..
When I was there many years ago they were stacking a shuttle on the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters and it was one of the top 5 coolest things I have ever seen. It just doesn't seem like anything should be able to lift up a shuttle by the nose, hoist it hundreds of feet in the air and set it next to a rocket (all inside).
Click through and check out all the photos.. It's just so cool.