Leonid MAC 1999:
We were a little excited tonight. First, because this was our first official mission night, and, second, because there was a prediction that a fireball component of the Leonids might occur. This fireball component did not appear for us, although we later learned it was seen by people in the central United States, which is where my home is. Nevertheless, we were seeing Leonids falling at a rate of about 20/hour. We agreed that most meteors were magnitude 5 to 6. All the equipment worked perfectly.
We landed in Tel Aviv just after daybreak. Customs was not the issue the Air Force intelligence person said it would be. We had gotten out of our flightsuits before we left the plane and took a bus that was waiting to take us to customs. Our group walked into an empty customs area. A lady came walking up to us and from a distance asked, "Are you the NASA people?" We kind of looked at each other not really knowing what to say, since we were supposed to be "fitting in" and "not bringing attention to ourselves." Finally, one of our Air Force leaders walked up to her and said a few things. She then turned to a group of women sitting behind the customs booths and told them to check us in. They jumped up and, with smiles, proceeded to stamp our passports, welcome us to Tel Aviv, and let us pass through.
We boarded the buses to the hotels. Interestingly, the Air Force personnel got on a different bus than the rest of us, which took them to a different hotel. We were puzzled by this and I decided I would check with them that evening when we were leaving Israel.
The left-hand image is my first view of Tel Aviv just minutes before sunrise. The center image is of us boarding the bus to go to the hotel. The right-hand image is of the hotel Maxim. Images captured from video taken by Gary W. Kronk.
We arrived at the hotel Maxim and enjoyed a breakfast buffet. I then went up to my room. As luck would have it I had one of six rooms that faced the Mediterranean Sea. I enjoyed the view of the beach and sea. I opened the windows to let in the warm breeze. I turned on the television and found only one English speaking station, the music channel VH-1. At 9:30 a.m. I sat back on my bed to watch TV and found myself waking up 6 hours later. This was the longest, uninterrupted sleep I had had in months!
I took a shower and then sat looking out the window wondering if anyone would want to walk down to the beach. Just then Dave Holman knocked on my door. He wanted to know if I would walk down to the beach with him. No problem! What a great idea!
The beach was gorgeous and Tel Aviv presented a nice skyline for photography. I was not dressed for wading, but I made it a point to at least get my hands wet in the Mediterranean Sea. It was fairly warm. Several people were swimming and Dave, used to enjoying the Pacific Ocean, couldn't resist the opportunity to go wading. I took numerous photos, including a sunset over the Mediterranean.
At 7:00 p.m. we were treated to dinner at Picasso's at the hotel Aviv. I had sirloin steak. The waiters and waitresses were all very nice and one of the waitresses even took a picture of our group for us.
At 9:15 we checked out of the hotel. Our bus was on its way at 9:30 and we were aboard the ARIA by 10:15. We did a little work and since we were not scheduled to take off until 12:30 a.m., we stepped outside and took some pictures. We were not on a military flightline, so pictures were okay. This was our primary mission night and we were excited.
Concerning the separate bus/hotel issue I mentioned earlier, I took this time to ask a couple of members of our flight crew why this had happened. "Was it because you're too good for us?" I kiddingly asked. "No", one of them replied. "The Air Force decided that your hotel was not secure enough for us." "Oh!"
If you have any questions, please email me