Several weeks ago the shuttle model that had been on display in Florida was moved to Nasa (Johnson Space Center) near Houston. Since it was summer, the kids & I jumped in the car & drove down to Kemah to watch. Here are a few (actually a lot) images from that day.
Although is was very warm (hot to some), there was a good crowd (but not as packed as it could have been) hanging out along the Kemah boardwalk waiting with us.
You could see the shuttle approaching on the barge accompanied by many departments providing security (coast guard, sheriff, etc). I think we counted 5 helicopters and as the shuttle got closer to land, the helicopters hovered low/close enough that we felt the wind from their blades.
As it got closer, you could see how big the shuttle actually was. Several people riding on the shuttle barge were video taping us.
Just a "little" security around the barge/shuttle, and a lot of civilians in sailboats hanging out in the bay getting their own great view. The police boats made sure that the channel was kept clear - they didn't want any wake at all to move the barge (the shuttle was just sitting on top of it) and no telling what some crazy people would do these days. A few boats thought they'd get a little closer & they were lucky enough to get a personal chat with the sheriff/coast guard.
The Kemah boardwalk area includes several restaurants, a hotel, shops, small amusement park, and an open area for live bands with a walk through fountain (pretty much a tourist area). Locals come here as well - the landscaping is beautiful & you can sit by the water while you eat & watch the boats (some yachts) head out to Galveston Bay. Seeing the shuttle pass through is definitely not one of the normal watercraft you'd expect though.
The shuttle met several challenges getting from Florida to Houston/Clear Lake - but this was an interesting one... the Kemah bridge. I happen to be standing next to a tug boat operator who said there was only 3 inches of clearance on each side of the wings and the bridge supports... talk about close with no room for error.
Yeah!! Shuttle made it without touching anything (you can see more people gathered here as well). The barge moved slowly throughout the trip, but during this critical point there was a tug boat in front of & behind the shuttle barge... can't be too careful (did I read that NY didn't quite get their shuttle moved as easily & without damage??? Sorry - just a little dig).
More security (with some nicely mounted automatic weapons of some type on the front - guess they mean business). Who knew Texas Highway Patrol had boats too? (Truly "Don't mess with Texas")
The civilian boats followed (behind the Texas Highway Patrol boats) all the way up the channel to Clear Lake.
Needless to say trying to get home was an adventure in itself. However because we were stuck in traffic we were able to watch the shuttle move across Clear Lake. More civilians were there to greet it - jet skis, wind surfers - many people on land as well. (Taken from my vehicle, sitting in traffic on a bridge.)
The tug boats greeted the shuttle with a water spray (I'm sure there is an official term for this - but I don't know it) - there were actually 2 boats, but since I was kind of driving, stuck in traffic, couldn't change lenses - this is what I was able to capture. There were a LOT of people at the temporary dock area where the shuttle would be lifted onto a flatbed & driven to Nasa later that weekend. We didn't even try to come back for that.
There has been a lot of discussion in our area about Nasa (& home of mission control) getting a raw deal and not getting a "real" shuttle - some very heated discussions. I've read online & in the newspaper that maybe getting this particular one isn't such a bad deal - we will be able to walk around inside of it. Yes it was at Florida's visitor's center for 15 years, but it is here now. It is supposed to be open to the public in the fall - we'll probably go & check it out. One word of advise if you plan a trip to Space Center Houston/Johnson Space Center/Nasa -- bring $$$. It is expensive.