Press To MECO: Documentary released on Shuttle reporting

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For over 30 years, the Space Shuttle Program captured the hearts and minds of millions of people throughout the world. From following the missions on TV, in newspapers, on websites, the Shuttle program has been lived by people on every continent. And through it all, the missions, the people, and the workforce have been brought to life by reporters who have brough missions to the public.

The Space Shuttle: A Labor of Love

It goes without saying that the Space Shuttle is a labor of love – not only for the teams that worked their hardest to get these graceful vehicles ready for mission after mission, but also for the hundreds of diligent and dedicated media representatives who sacrificed in their personal lives to stay up late, get up early, adjust their sleeping schedules to bring the missions to life for the general public.

Over the course of the Space Shuttle Program, numerous documentaries have been made about these magnificent vehicles, including their triumphs, their tragedies, and the people who have flown aboard them.

But something was lacking: the media.

In September 2006, a small team of individuals – who were nothing more than fans of the Space Shuttle Program – came together to produce a music tribute video for the return to service mission of Shuttle orbiter Atlantis on the STS-115 flight of the Shuttle Program: the mission that resumed construction of the International Space Station in the wake of the 2003 loss of Shuttle Columbia.

The music from that video – “Infinity” – would serve as the inspiration for the start of a permanent partnership between Larry Sullivan, Brian Papke, and Mike Astles – who played a major role in the formation of MaxQ before events in his personal life changed his contribution ability in the following years. Mike was, nonetheless, and instrumental figure in MaxQ’s formative years.

Over the years, Nathan Moeller, Steven Burgess, and I, Chris Gebhardt, joined the group as permanent members, serving to expand the knowledge base and technical expertise of the group.

And from STS-115 through STS-128, the music video tributes for each and every Shuttle mission in that timeframe churned out.

But for certain members of the group, one thing was missing, something that was only thought to be a far-out dream: witnessing the launch of a Space Shuttle from the Kennedy Space Center’s press site.

In association with NASASpaceflight.com, plans for an up-close and personal music video for the STS-129 flight of orbiter Atlantis began in the spring of 2009.

As the project evolved, three of the MaxQ team members – Larry Sullivan, Brian Papke, and Steven Burgess – were fortunate enough to be granted media access to join me in covering the launch campaign for STS-129.

From there, Larry became a permanent fixture at the Kennedy Space Center, covering numerous Shuttle-based events for every single mission from STS-129 through the closeout of the program in 2011.

But we at MaxQ were not content with simply producing music videos with images captured by members of the team. We wanted something more. We wanted to share our experiences with everyone.

And from that idea, the Press To MECO documentary was born.

With a new focus, work began on capturing as much video and images as possible, as well as interviews with some of the most recognizable reporters on the Space Shuttle beat.

Within six months of the start of MaxQ filming operations at the Kennedy Space Center, the final member of the MaxQ team, Nathan Moeller, was able to dedicate a full week of time to filming for the documentary surrounding the launch of Shuttle Atlantis on the STS-132 mission in May 2010.

The team would then assemble almost in its entirety again for the final launch of Space Shuttle orbiter Discovery and the STS-133 mission.

From there, filming continued through STS-134′s retirement flight of the Space Shuttle orbiter Endeavour and culminated along with the Program with the emotional flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis and STS-135.

And for it all, the MaxQ team filmed the excitement of hearing the final “go/no go” polls at T-9mins and holding, the anticipation when the countdown clock started counting backward from T-9mins, through the all-important hand off of the Ground Launch Sequencer to the orbiters’ onboard computers, to the large intake of breath at T-6.6 seconds… and holding that breath through SRB ignition, liftoff, and the initial climb out from Kennedy… all the way to the “go at throttle up” call.

In Press To MECO, the MaxQ team brings forth the excitement, the joy, the sights, the sounds, and the activities of the launch of the most-recognizable space vehicle in the world.

To us, reporting on and following the Space Shuttle Program was more than a job… it was a passion – and one that we are pleased to have the opportunity to share with you.

As Wayne Hale, Manager of the Space Shuttle Program from 2005-2008, once remarked, “The new vision of manifest destiny is to explore the universe. We go into space not merely because it helps us economically or fosters building new and improved gadgets; we go into space because that experience fulfills the nature of what it means to be human.”

And the Space Shuttle helped us do just that. From the MaxQEnt team, we hope that you will take a journey with us behind the scenes for an entire processing flow of the Space Shuttle.

The information presented in our documentary “Press To MECO” is a compilation of our experiences, our thoughts, our adventures, and our passions as we got the humbling opportunity to be up close and personal with three of our United States’ greatest technological achievements: the Discovery, the Atlantis, and the Endeavour.

We hope you all enjoy this very special look at what it’s like to be a reporter at the Kennedy Space Center. For the MaxQ team, the experiences from 2009 through 2011 were truly some of the greatest and unexpected experiences of the team members’ lives.

And none of it would have been possible with the support of the NASASpaceflight.com community and the thousands Space Shuttle workers throughout the United States.

With all our thanks and gratitude,
The MaxQEnt team.

Additional note from Chris Bergin, Managing Editor, NASASpaceflight.com: It goes without saying that I’m extremely proud of the MaxQ Entertainment team, not only for their tireless work towards improving NASASpaceflight.com’s coverage via their video and photography work, but also for creating what is now a highly impressive media organization - as seen in this superb documentary.

NASASpaceflight.com is very honored to be heavily associated with the MaxQ team on both a personal and professional level. Their dedication and loyalty to both the site and the subject matter is an example to all, and epitomizes the forward direction of the entire NSF/MaxQ team.

Click here for the amazing MaxQ Entertainment STS-135 Mission Review Music Video:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=26178.0

(Images: Via the PTM Video - MaxQ Entertainment/NASASpaceflight.com.)

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