I'm hopefully going to view the launch of my astronaut friend Samantha Cristoforetti at Kennedy Space Center, as well as visit space facilities and places on the Space Coast. I'll try to share some photos and updates here.

This is the cover of Samantha's memoir, Diary of an Apprentice Astronaut, for which I wrote the glossary.

Here's the recovered first stage of the Starlink 4-14 launch. I took this photo from a helicopter flying over Port Canaveral.

In a few hours I'll leave for Kennedy Space Center to view the Crew-4 launch. The weather is 90% go and the night is really nice.

The night launch of Crew-4 carrying my friend Samantha Cristoforetti to space was a spectacular multisensory experience. Part of the night sky turned almost as bright as daylight, with the running rocket engines and exhausts looking blindingly bright.


A GRiD Compass II 1139 rugged laptop flown on Space Shuttle missions in the 1980s. It was one of the earliest laptops and its manufacturer, GRiD Systems Corporation, had the US government and NASA as its major buyers. See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grid_Com

I took this photo at the Atlantis Space Shuttle exhibition of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

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I took this photo at Kennedy Space Center less than 500 m away from launch complex 39A with the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Freedom Dragon capsule of the Crew-4 flight. In the distance, behind the frame of the water tank at right, at complex 39B the SLS rocket of the Artemis I mission photobombed the scene.

I was there for a pre-launch meeting of Samantha Cristoforetti and her Crew-4 crewmates with their families and friends.

Launch pad 39B with the SLS rocket of the Artemis I mission, at left, and pad 39A with the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Freedom Dragon capsule of the Crew-4 flight, at right. It's the view across Banana River from the viewing stands on the back yard of the Saturn V Center at Kennedy Space Center.

I took this photo with my Pixel 4 XL at 2X optical zoom.

What surprised me most of viewing Space Shuttle Atlantis up close is the level of detail I could make out. The experience was almost hyper-real.

The vehicle is on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

At the Kennedy Space Center press site I had this view of the turning basin, with the SLS rocket of the Artemis I mission on the pad at launch complex 39B. A crop of the same photo shows better the rocket in full view.

I took the photo with my Pixel 4 XL at 2X optical zoom.

My memories of the trip to Florida to view the Crew-4 launch from Kennedy Space Center. This flight to the International Space Station carried also my astronaut friend Samantha Cristoforetti.


Although only a mockup, standing next to this full-size Space Shuttle partial stack gives you a sense of scale. You really feel you're next to a big spacecraft.

The stack, which combines the external tank (ET) and solid rocket boosters (SRBs), is in front of the Atlantis exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

A circular slide rule for computing the times of key Apollo 11 mission events. Raytheon made it in 1969 likely as a gadget or giveaway for public outreach and education. These days an aerospace company may publish a mobile app instead.

I took this photo at the American Space Museum in Titusville, FL, a great space history venue.

As a guest of astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, I got to meet her at the "wave across the ditch", an event where crew members meet their families and friends a few days before launch. This one took place at launch complex 39A of Kennedy Space Center, less than 500 m away from the pad with the Falcon 9 rocket of their Crew-4 flight.

It was a relaxed and fun event, as Samantha's expression shows. The guy photobombing the scene is her fellow astronaut Luca Parmitano.

In early June 2022 the Artemis I SLS rocket was rolled back to launch complex 39B ahead of a new wet dress rehearsal attempt.

When I visited Kennedy Space Center a couple of months earlier, on April 20 I had this view of the rocket on the pad from the back yard of the Saturn V Center. The second image shows a crop with a framing I like. I took the photo with my Pixel 4 XL phone at 2X optical zoom.

When I visited Kennedy Space Center's Saturn V Center in 2007, this flight-ready Apollo Lunar Model was on display hanging off the ceiling. While impressive, the spacecraft's body hid most of the upper stage.

Fast forward to Apr 21, 2022 when I took this photo. Now the LM is at floor level and in full view.

The American Space Museum in Titusville, FL, is among the few such venues where you're encouraged to touch stuff. And there's a lot to touch in this roomful of early Atlas rocket launch control center consoles.

My night view from Kennedy Space Center's Banana Creek viewing site half an hour before the Crew-4 launch.

At the horizon, the lit area at left is the 39A pad with the Falcon 9 rocket. The iconic VAB is at right. The bleachers are mostly empty because many crew guests had left over the previous days, as their travel arrangements didn't accommodate the multiple launch delays.

These Space Shuttle launch control center consoles, used at Kennedy Space Center in the 1980s or 1990s, had a mix of digital computers and analog controls such as switches, buttons, dials, and indicator lights.

I took these photos at the American Space Museum in Titusville, FL.

It looks like I caught on camera the early construction work at the site of Starship's service tower inside launch complex 39A, at Kennedy Space Center. This is a crop of a photo I took on April 21, 2022 at the Crew-4 "wave across the ditch" event I mentioned here, where you can see the full frame:


An interesting item I saw on display at the American Space Museum in Titusville, FL, is this WWII era slide rule with the label "SUN - HEMMI MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN".

To celebrate the upcoming launch of the SLS rocket, here's one of my photos of it standing on pad 39B, along with a crop that better shows the rocket. In the full frame, launch pad 39A with the Crew-4 Falcon 9 rocket is at right.

On April 21, 2022, while waiting for the Starlink 4-14 launch at the Banana Creek viewing site of Kennedy Space Center, I took this photo with my Pixel 4 XL at 2X optical zoom.

Congrats to my astronaut friend Samantha Cristoforetti, who will become the commander of the International Space Station:


I celebrate with this photo I took at Kennedy Space Center at the "wave across the ditch" event ahead of her Crew-4 space flight:


Behind her is ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano.

@amoroso That thing looks STURDY! It could probably be used as a weapon against the Xenomorph queen and come out unscathed, acid blood and all

@fabio The Shuttle was relatively gentle as far as spacecraft accelerations and stresses go. But NASA has always bought pretty much off the shelf laptops, so that GRiD device may have been designed for more mechanically challenging environments.

@amoroso After the Challenger disaster brother-in-law who was a VP at Martin Marietta took over the Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans where the large shuttle external fuel tanks were made and straightened up the manufacturing process there.

@Iquitoz The external tank mockup on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is really impressive, it hints at all the work that went into it.

@amoroso This is a fantastic report, Paolo!

The Johnson Space Center in Houston has a Space Shuttle riding on top of a Boeing 747. Since it's just a replica, they let you go inside and see the flight deck.


@codewiz Thanks, JSC is definitely on my bucket list. I visited that Shuttle replica in 2007, back when it was on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.


This is what the flight deck looks like:

Not sure how accurate it is, but it was an amazing experience.

@codewiz A great value of mockups like that is you get a sense of proportion and how the various internal environments fit together.

@amoroso I love how there's an LCD monitor shoved in the hole where a CRT used to be.

I love my 4XL and the camera still holds up 3+ years later! Though I think I will be getting a 7 Pro later on this fall.

@gme Yes, the 4 XL camera still holds well.

But sometimes I wish I had a more powerful optical zoom, so I'll definitely check the 7 Pro too (assuming it gets distributed in my country, which shouldn't be taken for granted).

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