Friday, August 28, 2009

The Shuttle Launch I Almost Saw

Note: Due to my travels and extraordinary circumstances the regularly scheduled programming on has been slightly interrupted.  Everything will be back to normal next week.  If you haven’t noticed that there is a schedule and pattern to my posts, never mind.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I spent the past week in Florida at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in the hopes of seeing my uncle pilot the Space Shuttle Discovery into space. You also know that the launch was scrubbed twice during my alloted time there and I was unable to see him lift off in person.  They are trying again tonight but I am back home in Chicago and will have to watch the launch on NASA TV instead.

 The six days we spent in Florida were packed with action.  Friday night we went to see District 9 — to keep with the space theme of the week.  On Saturday, Dee, Dee’s mom and I went to Universal Studios and experienced the “rides.”  My suggestion: only go to Universal Studios if you are a fan of lame-ass almost-rides.  We spent Sunday at the KSC taking in the sights and collecting our tickets and passes for the launch.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time for the bus tour of the KSC, so we decided to come back on Monday for the tour.  We did.  We saw more rockets and lunar landers and tried not to sweat in the 90-plus degree heat.

After the bus tour, we headed back to our resort to have a quick dinner and try to get a little rest before the launch.  Once we had nourished ourselves and napped, we piled back into the cars and made our way back to the KSC.  We overestimated the traffic we thought we would encounter and arrived much earlier than we had hoped.  Thankfully, the KSC still had many exhibits open and Dee, Drew, Alyssa and I were able to try the Shuttle Experience Simulator.  The Shuttle Experience Simulator attempts to recreate the feeling of being in the Shuttle during liftoff.  Basically, it just tilts you back and shakes you around a lot.

Eventually, we boarded the bus to the site where we were to watch the launch.  We were located about three miles from the launch pad and had a magnificent view of the Shuttle as it sat ready to go.  We sat in aluminum bleachers next to a large countdown timer and a small television so that we could see what was going on in and around the Shuttle.  Around us was a large swamp, so we were quite thankful we remembered bug spray.  It smelled like bananas.  The bug spray, not the swamp.  Strange.

We sat watching the launch pad and the storms that hovered over the area.  All evening, they were “red” for the weather conditions and we suspected the launch would be delayed.  However, minutes before launch all of the weather conditions with the exception of two went “green.”  The crowd cheered and the skies seemed to part just above the Shuttle.  Everyone was optimistic and you could suddenly feel the excitement.  I prepped my camera and got ready for launch.  The clock got down under nine minutes before a voice came over the loud speakers and announced that the launch was a “no-go” due to lightning in the area.  I said, “Aww, crap,” because my mom was nearby, otherwise I would have said, “Aww, shit.”

Disappointed, we climbed back on the bus.  Our tour guide on the bus looked and sounded like G. W. Bush.  He even said “simyooler” instead of “similar.”  His name was Dale and he was the type of guy you love to have narrating your trip on the bus but not the type of guy you’d want to run the country.  He tried to console us by telling us that they would try again the next night.  We hoped he was right, but he was not.  The next day they encountered a problem with one of the fuel valves and had to reschedule for today.

Unfortunately, we could not stay for a “maybe” launch on Friday.  We flew home Wednesday and I’m now sitting in my living room as Kevin (my uncle) is strapped into the pilot’s seat in the Space Shuttle Discovery.  Launch is scheduled for 11:59:37 pm EST.  By 12:08:07 am EST, Kevin should finally be in space.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Important told me tha tyou got an email from space, very cool. But seriously, I think it is amazing that your uncle is up their right now in space seeing the world as only a few before him have.

    Sorry that you had to miss the launch though.