From experience, I can tell you being at one of the launchpads at Kennedy Space Center is awesome beyond words. Not many people, though, get to see a shuttle on the launchpad up close and personal, and with just a couple launches left, many are at least are hoping to get a view of the launch. But if you aren’t able to travel to Florida and see a shuttle on the pad, you can take advantage of a few different websites that can take you there virtually, and probably bring you closer than you could ever get in person.
The first website is Gigapan, where NASA photographer Bill Ingalls has put together all the high resolution images he took on Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 at Kennedy Space Center, and created one huge images that you can pan around and see everything up close. Go to the Gigapan website, and by moving your mouse around or by clicking on the images below the big image, you will be transported up close and personal with various locations within the image.
The Gigapan technology was originally developed for the Mars Exploration Rovers, and the panoramas created from Mars enabled a simulated experience of being on another planet. The Gigapan project aims to create a similar experience, but for exploration of Earth.
The second website is John O’Connor’s NASA Tech website. I met John when I was at Kennedy Space Center earlier this year, was able to watch him take the images for the extremely high resolution virtual tours he creates. The interactive 360 degree images he creates are nothing short of stunning — but they are also very bandwidth intensive — so be prepared, and watch out if you don’t have high speed internet or have a lot of browsers or windows open on your computer. Right now on his website you can see different views of the launchpad with Discovery sitting on top, and also go inside the space station processing facility and see Robonaut 2 before he was stowed for launch on STS-133, and much more.
Here’s an image I took of John setting up his equipment when we were at Launchpad 39B in March of this year.