ET-134 Arrives at Kennedy Space Center

This video montage shows space shuttle external tank ET-134’s arrival at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.


Watch this video (Windows, streaming)

At approximately 8:00 a.m. EDT on Oct. 24, NASA ship Liberty Star transferred Pegasus and ET-134 to tug boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott in Port Canaveral. After a four-hour trip along the calm waters of Port Canaveral channel and the Banana River, Pegasus and ET-134 arrived on dock at the turn basin in front of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where it was prepped and off-loaded.


Public affairs officer/blogger Steve Roy surveys the ocean ahead during the voyage of
Liberty Star, Pegasus and ET-134 from Gulfport, Miss. to Kennedy Space Center.

Exploration: It's a Matter of Timing

As we prepare to say farewell to ET-134 at the dock at Kennedy Space Center, I think back on what an amazing opportunity it was to meet the ships’ crew and two of the most important seafaring vessels that have served the space program. The chance to sail with Pegasus and Liberty Star across some of the most historical waters in the western hemisphere has been something of a personal exploration, like roaming the mountains and forest of the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, albeit a little less physically strenuous.

To hop onboard a ship and sail across bodies of water that have served as the same pathways of exploration to the farthest reaches of North and South America; served explorers for centuries; setting the stage for building a new world; has been nothing short of an honor and special privilege. It makes me giddy to think about what is to follow in the years, decades, and centuries ahead; space journeys to unknown places with immense unknown possibilities.

This artist’s concept illustrates the idea that rocky, terrestrial worlds like the inner
planets in our solar system, may be plentiful and diverse in the universe.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech 
View all blog images in this Flickr gallery

The time is coming for an explosion of human exploration across the solar system; a tide of exploration the like of which we have not seen in recent history. New technologies, materials, navigation and communication devices, foods, fuels, operational techniques, SpaceLogistics, SpaceEngineering, strategies and ideas are coalescing to form the dynamo to inspire and drive the next biggest step yet in human history, the human exploration of the solar system and beyond.

Sources of water are abundant, even on our moon, but especially on ice capped moons and the polar regions of planets.
Thanks to NASA’s orbiting “Great Observatories” telescopes — Spitzer in infrared, Hubble in visible light, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and Chandra in X-ray — and thanks to many government and university operated ground based observatories, we now know of the existence of almost 300 planets; at least one with tantalizing Earth-like characteristics; 430 light years away.

The Crab Nebula, the result of a supernova seen in 1054 AD. Credit: NASA, ESA,
J. Hester, A. Loll (ASU); Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (Skyfactory)

Unfortunately, timing is not always on the side of the explorer. For instance, by the early 1700s the American frontier had been defined by the Appalachian Mountains; a useful geographical border for a hundred years and defined by policies of the home government in England 2,500 miles away across the Atlantic Ocean. The home government forbade general exploration beyond the Appalachians in order to prevent hostilities with the Native American tribes and thus implemented the most important element of home rule policy; insure fur trading went east to England via American ports.

While American explorers were prevented from a general advance to the west, aggressive and highly motivated Spanish explorers had long since explored the southwestern reaches of America and French trappers and traders had pushed well beyond the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River and already knew well the Indians of the Great Plains, particularly the great Sioux nation. 

It wasn’t until the early 1800s that American “Mountain Men” trickled west of St. Louis. But when America finally got going west, it got going with great abandonment and enthusiasm. The 1804-1806 Lewis and Clarke expedition sponsored by President Jefferson finally found the Northwest Passage and set the stage for the great treks west by the millions that would follow the wastage of the Civil War.
In 1838 President Martin Van Buren sent a small, inexpensive but adventurous six-vessel American fleet, known as the Exploring Expedition, to explore the Pacific in relatively tiny ships; learning firsthand the perils of sailing in Polynesia and along the way made a very minor side trip from those warm waters to discover the coast of Antarctica. Of course, English whalers and Spanish galleons had already passed through these waters for over a hundred years.

Antarctica, a frozen desert. Credit: NASA/Carnegie-Mellon University

By 1840 the dream to go west was gaining momentum and the Conestoga wagons were being built, but they wouldn’t be called by that name for many more years. What a great name for a future space ship designed to carry cargo, the Conestoga Maru.

It is now 2009 and the clock of exploration is ticking again. Timing is everything. In the 1960s we went to the moon because the timing of competition on the international scene was right. In 1998 we started building our first big space station, the International Space Station, because the timing for partnering was right. Building the station was hardly an end game, it was costly and hard work — worthwhile as our first long term way station in space; a place to test ourselves and to hone our operational procedures like automated rendezvous and docking; to analyze, to study, to engineer, to use, break and fix things that keep spacefarers healthy like the COLBERT treadmill and to keep them alive; a stepping stone of exploration and simultaneously a place of scientific study for exploration and to better life on Earth.

The pathways and signal lights have been lit; ignited by every human in human experience carrying a torch that ventured to the next valley in search of a better life or simply because another valley might be there, over the mountains; lit by every settler who never made it to across the prairies to Oregon or California and by those that did; lit by every lost explorer smashed on the rocks at La Tierra del Fuego; lit by Magellan and Cook and lit by every astronaut spacefarer who took the risk to fly into space.

The clock is ticking. Humanity has arrived very close to the opening of the new path, a new era of exploration. The pathways of seafarers defined by compass bearings across the oceans, guided by the sun and the stars, will be replaced with computer-generated interplanetary (eventually interstellar) trajectories, some coasting in the gravity field, some using gravity assist from planets to increase their energy, some thrusting during most of the journey, to far distant planets and moons. 

Earthrise, as seen from the moon during the Apollo 8 mission. Credit: NASA

Way stations for stock piling fuels, food, water, supplies, and all forms of hardware for spaceflight will be established along the path to sustain these deep space missions. However, settlers coming to stay will have to learn to live off the land using local planetary resources for developing energy sources, building habitats and constructing a support infrastructure. 

It would be fitting if at least some of the way stations be named Detroit, Michilimackinac, Laramie or Oswego. Search and rescue spacecraft will patrol the frontier to bring back exhausted and depleted survivors or damaged space ships; just like U.S. Coast Guard does for us. Perhaps our future life guards will be named the Space Guards. An infrastructure of colonies will grow up around launch pads, landing pads, watering holes, logistics bases, drilling and mining operations, way stations, and science exploration sites — and who knows, maybe even archeology sites. Wouldn’t that be something. How about excavating a giant, shinny, black monolith on Europa!

John F. Ross writes today in his recent book about Robert Rogers, of Rogers Rangers fame. Speaking of the days of early exploration of the American continent, he says, “Certainly British colonists in Boston and Philadelphia could imagine vast stretches of forest, but understanding America was like understanding the solar system before spaceflight. People had a sense of the solar system as an immense place, punctuated by planets and stars, but not until ships blasted off into space and probes raced to its outer edges did humans look at the cosmos in new, revolutionary ways, most notably gaining the insight that the fragile orb of Earth is a finite place. And only when Europeans gained purchase on vast North America — through descriptions and explorations — could their perceptions change from dread to eager embrace of the immense possibilities.”

NASA scientist Peter Curreri of my own Marshall Space Flight Center says it this way: “The first astronauts plant the flag, like Columbus. Then settlers begin to live in the solar system as in early America, permanently (like Jamestown), except now it’s a space station, an asteroid base or a lunar base. They live off the land, and become more independent. They find riches and resources beyond the expectations of robotic surveys. They make use of unlimited energy from space solar power, and begin to develop large habitats on their new home. They develop a solar system economy that would astound us in the same way that the eventual richness of the United States astounded the old world.  Eventually this new rich solar system society has the financial wealth to boldly push into interstellar space to the new solar systems beyond like when America boldly put men on the moon.”

Apollo astronaut on the moon. Credit: NASA

Whatever the immense possibilities are, in the early years it will certainly be rough; like camping without any amenities; tougher than cresting the Appalachians or crossing the Mississippi; journeying into a very unforgiving unknown; a journey for the stoutest, stalwart, creative, innovative, independent, and curious.

I might mention one final note about exploration. When people do venture in large numbers into space, no one in space will have to worry about finding a job because the most sought after person in the solar system will be your neighborhood mechanic.

Good luck to all of us — all 6.8 billion of us.

ET-134 Rolls Off Pegasus on to Kennedy Space Center

2:11 p.m., Eastern, Oct. 24
ET-134 Rolls Off Pegasus on to Kennedy Space Center

Following arrival of Pegasus on dock at Kennedy Space Center, the Pegasus crew leveled the barge with the dock and opened the cargo doors, readying the vessel for an invasion of a small army of Kennedy-based technicians. These teams of United Space Alliance technicians from External Tank and Integration, Launch and Recovery Operations swarmed around ET-134, removing support stanchions, hydraulic lifts, and lowering ET’s transporter on to its four massive wheel assemblies.  

In the images above: ET-134 journeys into the Vehicle Assembly
Facility, where it will be readied for a February flight into space. Credit: NASA

ET-134, looking handsome and ready to fly, rolled on to Kennedy Space Center at exactly 2:11 p.m., continuing on to the distant Vehicle Assembly Building. Pegasus, its day not quite done, was towed back into the turn basin by the Lou Anna Guidry and WP Scott and began its final journey of the day to docks at Port Canaveral. Like Liberty Star, Pegasus will be pressed back into service to sail again very soon.
It’s been an amazing journey for all of us; hard-charging Liberty Star; obedient and protective Pegasus; eager to fly ET-134; and television producer Mick Speer and public affairs blogging Steve Roy, both proud to have served with the crew of Liberty Star and  Pegasus. 

The watch is now reporting … all is well.

Liberty Star Transfers Pegasus and ET-134 to Tug Boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott in Port Canaveral

8:00 a.m. Eastern, Oct. 24
Liberty Star Transfers Pegasus and ET-134 to Tug Boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott in Port Canaveral

Pegasus is now under way in the calm waters of Port Canaveral channel enroute to the Banana River and eventually, the turn basin at the Kennedy Space Center near the Vehicle Assembly Building. Television producer Mick Speer and public affairs blogger Steve Roy negotiated, with excellent help from the crew on the tug boat WP Scott, the transfer to Pegasus without incident and without getting wet. The transit from Port Canaveral to the Vehicle Assembly Building will take approximately four hours. 

In the Port Canaveral channel crews of Pegasus and Liberty Star complete the
break of the tow in preparation for tug boats Lou Anne Guidry and WP Scott to
move into position and begin the final leg of the trip to Kennedy Space Center.
Credit: NASA

As planned, after dropping the tow to the tugs, Liberty Star sailed off ahead of Pegasus, eager to prepare for the next mission.

The weather is beautiful this morning in the Cocoa Beach area as we progress thru the Port Canaveral locks. ET-134 looks sharp and ready to unload, perhaps even chomping at the bit.

The watch reports…all is well.

Life On Board Liberty Star: A Typical Day

9 am Eastern Time, Central Gulf of Mexico, Bearing south for the Dry Tortugas

From the point of view of sailing on a ship, everything at sea seems to be integrated into one experience; the sea and the weather as one, the crew and the ship.  I could be wrong, but that’s what it seems.

The Weather and the Sea
The weather is clearing but still partly cloudy, giving the sea an unqualified, but pleasing, purple color. Swells are rising from 4-6 feet and north northeasterly winds at 20-27 knots are continuing to roll the Liberty Star from port to starboard rather unpleasantly for land lubbers — but certainly not dangerously. Some rolls to starboard are up to slightly over 20 degrees; these you really notice, throwing you off your feet, if not prepared. Winds are expected to continue unabated throughout the voyage. 

Pegasus’ bow plunges majestically a few feet, throwing white sea spray onto and over its bow. Reports from Pegasus say ET-134 is doing fine, its black beak occasionally lifting skyward, as if doing its part; lunging forward to reach Kennedy Space Center. 

A few rain squalls are passing on all sides of Liberty Star, but don’t pose any problems. Hundreds of white caps top the sea’s surface. 
In other words the weather is fine, posing no problems for Liberty Star or crew, except anticipating that side-to-side roll, which is absolutely relentless and perfectly normal.

The Crew
The ten-person, well-trained and highly-experienced crew of Liberty Star is in constant movement throughout the ship. Captain Mike Nicholas roams the vessel keeping his own schedule, checking the tow, the engines, the sea and weather, and questioning the status of operations. 

The cook, Dragan Jurkovic, is in constant motion in the galley preparing meals as he is hurtled from starboard to port, saved by grabbing on to galley furniture and other fixtures. Dragan sustains the crew with wonderful full comfort meals of pork chops grilled to perfection with browned potatoes, peeled by the blogger public affairs officer — well, it’s what he does at home for his wife! — tasty stewed vegetables, crisp baked fish, savory chicken marsala, grilled New York strip steaks, cups of piping hot café latte, spreads of luncheon meat and six kinds of bread, chicken salad wraps and this afternoon…BBQ pork ribs…and tonight, filet mignon and sea scallops.

In the main deck engineers Trish Hershock and Danny Dugan share tough six hour shifts monitoring the status of the two Electric Motor Division (EMD) engines and drive shafts, generators, status of fuel and all other machinery necessary to push the ship forward. In addition to keeping up with Liberty Star’s current operations, the engineers are also planning for future operations: Trish ordering fuel for the sailing the next Monday for support of the Ares 1-X launch and booster  recovery operations, and Danny, who normally serves as Maritime Operations Port Engineer, also making plans for future operations and upgrades for port facilities.

The rest of the crew performs their primary functions as well as the vital function of standing watch on the bridge. A two-person team is always on watch: Cody Gordon and Al Grivina stand the watch together; John Jacobs and Clint Small another watch; and finally, John Bensen and Todd Rose stand watch.  Each team stands watch four hours and is off duty, roughly speaking, eight hours. 

Oddly, when moving around the ship in the middle of the day, one encounters few members of the crew, as many crew are resting for the next shift. At night, the bridge watch stands vigilant in near total darkness preferring to use radar imagery and personal vision conditioned for darkness rather than spotlights to view the ocean ahead.

The crew knows what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  Orders don’t seem to be issued per say; just quiet conversations, heads nodding agreement, crew moving off to work on some tasks.

It reminds me of a passage in one of the Patrick O’Brien books in the Master and Commander series. HMS Surprise under Jack Aubrey is under full sail heading south with the trade winds toward Brazil for his own rendezvous with destiny. The ship plows on, steadily, easily over one hundred miles a day, the watch changes with little fanfare, the cook serves up meals in the galley three times a day, the crew lounges on deck, rigging is adjusted with hardly an order; sailing on in this routine day after day for weeks on end; like sailors for thousands of years; like spacefarers in the centuries ahead, beautiful.

The Ship
Liberty Star yaws and pitches, rolls starboard to port and back to starboard; engines humming continuously; vibration is constant.  Frothy seas follow Liberty Star and 1,800 feet to our aft, the Pegasus as well. 

Constantly rotating radars in the masts high above the living and working decks of the ship point out crossing vessels to the watch as the sea sloshes by and occasionally sprays the upper weather decks.

The American flag stands straight out in the 27 knot wind, as Liberty Star sails on with little fanfare.  Freighters pass in the distance; identified well in advance.

During the day, you don’t notice the creaks and bangs you will notice later during the night in your bunk; as cabinets and minor loose storage in your stateroom rolls around the floor. In the staterooms of the second deck living quarters are stuffed with personal possessions, clothing and carrying bags. The RV-like-equipped staterooms are more than sufficient for these relatively short voyages and at night you have little problem hearing the sea rush pass the bow and sides of the ship.

The ship bends like the crew; to the routine of sea and weather; all seemingly working together; rolling, pitching, sleeping, standing watch, cooking, eating, quietly passing each other in the ship.

Liberty Star and Pegasus are under way over the sea; weather and sea; crew; ship; timeless; relentless; beautiful.

When You’re Hot,You’re Hot: Engine Room of Liberty Star

Assistant Engineer Danny Dugan takes us on a tour of the engine room as he checks and services the all-important propulsion system.

Starting aft of the engine room is the very end of the ship, a very cramped area called the lazarette. Here the hydraulic actuated rudder posts and steering gear are located.

Forward of the lazerette a few feet, we find the main engine room. A lot of very warm (hot) physical work goes on here in the engine room, where now we are below the water line. The all-important engine room houses the main propulsion system for Liberty Star, two main engines made by General Motors, providing a total of 2,900 horsepower turning two-six-foot propellers with controllable pitch. Controllable pitch provides greater response time and maneuverability. The engines generate 900 revolutions per minute (rpm) at full speed and at idle about 400 rpm. The Chief Engineer, Trish Hershock, and the Assistant Engineer, Danny Dugan, share continuous six-hour watches monitoring the engines.

Liberty Star,Pegasus and ET-134 Entering the Home Stretch

Captain’s Corner, 6:30 p.m. Eastern
Liberty Star, Pegasus and ET-134 Entering the Home Stretch

Liberty Star, Pegasus and ET-134 have a long way to go, but they’re beginning the home stretch to Cape Canaveral and Kenndey Space Center. We are making progress, but less than we had hoped for by swinging a few miles south and east to pick up the Gulf Stream current to bring us home faster. Thus far, we have benefited less from the Gulf Stream than hoped.

We’re clearing Plantation Key to our north and hope to pass Miami by the early morning hours.

Liberty Star is currently underwway at nine knots — about 10 miles — per hour, heading into southeasterly winds of 13 knots and seas running at 3-5 feet.

Pegasus is following with ET-134 in good shape and the Liberty Star crew in good spirits, knowing we’ll soon be closing on home waters. We’re looking at an arrival at Port Canaveral tomorrow evening, Friday, Oct. 23.

Michael Nicholas
Captain, M/V Liberty Star

The Greatest Explorer

After completing passage of the Florida Straits, Liberty Star, Pegasus and ET-134 will pass west of an icon of human exploration, the mixture of small islands generally believed to be where Christopher Columbus first sighted land in the Bahamas. No one knows for sure which island was the first to be sighted by Columbus, but the prime candidates are Samana Cay, Plana Cays, Grand Turk, or San Salvador Island (named San Salvador in 1925 in the belief that it was Columbus’ San Salvador).

Near Florida and Cuba, the underwater terrain is hilly, and the crests of many of
these hills comprise the islands of the Bahamas. Credit: NASA/AQUA, Moderate
Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)

With the blessing and financial support of the King and Queen of Spain, Christopher Columbus had sailed from Palos, Spain in early September 1492 and stopped at the Canary Islands, the westernmost of Spanish possessions. Columbus left the island of Gomera on September 6, 1492.

Columbus arrived at his Bahamas landfall on October 12, and then proceeded to Cuba on October 28. Columbus continued with the Santa Maria and Niña eastward, and arrived at Hispaniola on December 5, while the captain of the Pinta sailed on his own mission looking for gold.

The flagship Santa Maria grounded on a reef on Christmas Eve and foundered the next day. Columbus used the remains of the ship to build a fort on shore, which he named La Navidad (Christmas). Now down to just one ship, Columbus continued eastward along the coast of Hispaniola, and was surprised when he came upon the Pinta on January 6. Columbus’s distress was eased by his relief at having another ship for his return voyage to Spain.

Columbus returned to the Americas three more times, but ended his life thinking he had discovered the route to Asia.

In 1992 in celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas, replicas of the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria were constructed, crewed by volunteers and sailed across the Atlantic to reenact this incredible voyage of exploration. In June 1992 the replica Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria passed the launch pads of the Kennedy Space Center. The picture says it all: old voyagers and explorers riding the wind and seas, passing the torch to the new explorers; and saluting those spacecraft waiting their turn to fly from the Kennedy Space Center. What an unforgettable picture!

On the 500th arniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the New World,
replicas of his three ships sailed past the launch pad at the Kennedy Space
Center (KSC). Credit: NASA

In June 1992 Replicas of Christopher Columbus’ sailing ships Santa Maria, Nina, and Pinta sail by Endeavour, Orbiter Vehicle (OV) 105, on Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Launch Complex (LC) Pad 39B awaiting liftoff on its maiden voyage, STS-49. The second picture above was taken from the water showing the three ships in the foreground with OV-105 on mobile launcher platform profiled against fixed service structure (FSS) tower and retracted rotating service structure (RSS) in the background. Next to the launch pad (at right) are the sound suppression water system tower and the liquid hydrogen (LH2) storage tank.

But Columbus wasn’t finished yet and in fact Columbus’ life and travels in space have just begun. In February 2008 the European research laboratory, a large, fully equipped state-of-the-art science laboratory, was launched on board NASA’s STS-122 mission to the International Space Station. The Europeans named their science laboratory Columbus. 

The “Columbus” module and the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Columbus is a major contribution to one the history’s most amazing partnerships in science and engineering, the International Space Station.

Into the Florida Straits

The Straits of Florida, Florida Straits, or Florida Strait is a 100-mile strait located south-southeast of Florida, and is generally accepted to be the area between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and between the Florida Keys and Cuba. The strait carries the Florida Current, the beginning of the Gulf Stream, from the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic. (By the way, a strait is a thin, navigable channel of water that joins two larger navigable bodies of water.)

Florida, seen during space shuttle mission STS-95 on Oct. 31, 1998. Credit: NASA

The history of exploration of the Americas is strewn everywhere here as well. Off to the south some 70 miles away is the Island of Cuba; a major point of entry to the Western Hemisphere and base of operations for early Spanish explorers and ships returning across the Atlantic to Spain. To our north are the Florida Keys.

The Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first recorded sailing through the straits in 1513. Many more Spanish ships came later.

In 1622, twenty-eight heavily laden ships left Havana for Spain carrying the wealth and prestige of the Spanish empire in the Americas. Besides heavy cargos of silver, gold and emeralds from Spain’s American possessions, the ships carried thousands of sailors, soldiers, passengers, and all the necessary materials and provisions for a long voyage. The fleet was overtaken by a hurricane as it entered the Florida Straits. By the next morning eight Spanish vessels lay smashed on the ocean floor, scattered from the Marquesas Keys to the Dry Tortugas. Among these sunken ships were the Santa Margarita, the Nuestra Senora del Rosario and the Nuestra Senora de Atocha.

The Florida Keys. Credit: NASA

The most famous Spanish wreck found west of the Florida Keys was the above-mentioned Nuestra Señora de Atocha with a value estimated by some at $300,000,000.

Beginning in the 1500s, virtually every navy in Europe sailed these waters. Spanish, English, Dutch, Portuguese, French and eventually American colors have fluttered over the Straits.  Many ships flying no colors, pirates and privateers, prowled the Straits in the 1600s and 1700s seeking luckless and under-armed victims. During World War II, German U-boats transited the Straits on their way into the Gulf, but they remained only a short time before withdrawing to the much safer and deeper waters of the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Florida Keys contain the few coral reefs in the continental United States, making it a haven for fish and coral. These same reefs are hazards to navigation and thousands of ships have wrecked over the centuries in the Keys and elsewhere in the waters of Florida.

Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas

Today we are passing one of the most famous forts of the Gulf Coast defense system envisioned after the War of 1812 and designed to keep those pesky enemy fleets away from the our favorite beaches of Galveston, Gulf Shores, Pensacola, Panama City and of course Destin.

To our east lies the Dry Tortugas and located on one of those islands, Garden Key, is historic Fort Jefferson. Built in the mid-1800’s, with over 16 million bricks, this is America’s largest coastal fort. Originally constructed to protect the important Gulf of Mexico shipping lanes, Fort Jefferson was used as a military prison during and after the Civil War. During this time, it was “home” to Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of complicity in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, but pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in 1869.

The Islands were first discovered by Spanish explorer Ponce De Leon in 1513. It was first named Las Tortugas, The Turtles, due to the abundance of sea turtles. Construction of Fort Jefferson began in 1846 but the fort, which covers 11 of the key’s 16 acres, was never apparently finished. The fort was plagued with construction problems and yellow fever epidemics. The invention of the rifled cannon made the fort obsolete, as its brick walls could be easily penetrated. The Army finally abandoned Fort Jefferson in 1874.

In 1898 the USS Maine made a stop here at Fort Jefferson; then moved on to its rendezvous with destiny at Havana, Cuba.

Dry Tortugas, seen from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

In 1908 the area became a wildlife refuge to protect nesting birds from egg collectors. In 1935 Fort Jefferson was proclaimed as a National Monument but it was not until 1992 that Dry Tortugas was designated a National Park to protect both the historical and natural features. Limited camping is available.  Park officials tell you to bring your own water. I think I’ll go camping there someday. Sounds really great.