I was lucky to be at KSC when there was a Shuttle on both launch pads. Columbia was on 39A, and Discovery was on 39B.
Over time, I became the guy in our office who gave VIP tours of the pad. I loved doing it, especially since I was moving back to MSFC soon. But I had never gone by myself to explore places I had never been.
It was a beautiful afternoon, and I felt like getting out of the office. What better place to go than a launch pad with Discovery sitting on it?
As I recall, I checked out a government vehicle and drove up to the gate at the pad. The guard verified I had the proper access and swapped my badge for an orange Pad Perimeter Badge. I parked and walked the rest of the way.
When I reached the elevators on the service structure to go up, another guard swapped my orange badge for a white badge with “PAD” written on it. Now they knew I was there in an emergency.
I entered the elevator by myself and hit the button labeled “195.” This was the level where the crew access arm extended to the orbiter.
When the doors opened, I exited to my left and followed the black and yellow painted lines to the access arm that extended to Discovery. I was so caught up in the moment that I kept walking toward Discovery, not knowing if anybody could see me—and frankly, not caring.
At the end of the walkway, a set of butler doors opened into the White Room. This is where the crew does final suit preps before entering the Shuttle.
When I got close, a lady popped open the doors. I hadn’t seen her and figured I was about to be in trouble. Instead, she looked me square in the eyes and, with a sweet voice, said:
“Honey. Do you want to stick your head inside Discovery?”
At that moment, I was glad I had used the restroom before I left my office.
“Yes!” I said.
She told me to put my knees on the board that extended into the opening. I did as she said and stuck my head inside Discovery as far as possible. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
I kept my head in there as long as I thought I could get away with it, then I pulled out and thanked her for letting me do it.
With a big smile, she said, “Sure.” She knew she had made my day.
I exited back through the butler doors and left the pad area—smiling the entire way. At this point, I didn’t care if I looked like a tourist.
This was a neat moment in my life.
* This article originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of the “Make NASA Great” series.