The Intermittent Kevin

As rarely and randomly updated as most blogs

Recap of our last day

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If you follow my Twitter (or are especially Facebook-addicted) then you’ve got an idea how our day has gone. But if not, here it is in pictorial form:


And now in chronological form:

  • Saturday 5:00: We head to the local Target to stock up for our launch-viewing tailgate party. Soft-side cooler, food/drinks, warm clothes. Folding chairs are sold out (the place is popular with tourists like us).
  • Saturday 6:00: We try to nap before our all-night party. We pretty much fail. Instead, we watch the NASA channel on the hotel TV; the new administrator takes heated questions from NASA fans posing as journalists about the Obama administration’s radical proposed budget changes (clicky!). We all decide we like the administrator, though.
  • Saturday 8:00: Dinner at a local Mexican/Cuban restaurant along the shore in Titusville. It’s 9 hours before flight and the entire shoreline is completely jammed with cars and RVs. The restaurant’s tragically busy too; even though we get our table relatively quickly, our waitress is exceedingly overworked and doesn’t even get our drinks to us for 20 minutes. Looking nervously at the clock, we decide to leave.
  • Saturday 9:00: Fine, Cracker Barrel it is. Lots of waitresses, well-managed. We’re eating our country breakfasts in 15 minutes flat. God bless you, Cracker Barrel. Now stop being a bunch of conservative Republican jerks.
  • Saturday 9:45: Showtime. It’s a 15-minute drive out to the Kennedy Space Center across a long bridge. We join a crowd of thousands of tourists shuffling through a security line with their coolers and folding chairs. By 10:15 we’re into the main KSC complex, kind of an open plaza with exhibit buildings surrounding, and tourists milling about. We find the line for the buses, which aren’t due to load until 1:30 AM, three hours hence. Despite the suggestions of KSC employees to have a look around, we’re content to camp.
  • Sunday 12:15 AM: The line begins shuffling. Dad’s disappeared into the giant space-themed gift shop with our tickets. We realize, not for the first time, how he has a five-year-old’s tendency to wander off.
  • 12:20 AM: Dad shows up. We join the line-shuffling group, relatively toward the front of the line, and begin scootching our huge amount of tailgating equipment up and down the queue toward the bus-loading station.
  • 1:30 AM: After being forcibly posed for a tourist picture, our tickets are taken and exchanged for “cancellation vouchers.” Turns out, in the event of a scrub, we’re given priority to purchase tix for tomorrow at a reduced rate.
  • 1:45 AM: Our cantankerous bus driver talks to us, on the ride out the causeway, about his 50 years at NASA as a fireman. He’s none-too-happy about the expected budget cuts (“We’ve been to the moon before… if they leave us alone, we’ll go again.”) We love this guy.
  • 2:00 AM: Finally, the causeway. It really is just a grassy strip with portable lights spaced and porta-potties every so often. Across the water, six miles away, are the Vehicle Assembly Building and, lit up like a tower in Gotham, the shuttle itself.

Not a pic from last night, but pretty darn close.

We set up camp—a circle of five folding chairs and an electric lantern in the middle. It’s cold. Damn cold. The iPhone tells us it’s 50 degrees, but the iPhone can kiss our frozen butts.

From big speakers, we can hear the conversation between ground control and the astronauts in the shuttle; an impressive amount of acronyms are being used. Techincal prep is proceeding normally, but every 5-10 minutes the meteorological sourpusses comment on the gathering low-level clouds to the west, moving in our direction. We sit, we wait. The clouds approach ominously in the distance, illuminated by the spotlights on the shuttle.

  • 4:30 AM: The clouds cover the area. They’re not really a problem for launching a rocket—it would punch right through—but if the shuttle has to abort halfway to orbit, it will do a complicated backflip and coast back to Florida. Since the shuttle is a big zillion-ton glider at that point, with no chance for a retry, the pilot needs a clear view of the runway. Stupid clouds. The Flight Director officially scrubs the launch, and we trudge back to the bus.
  • 5:45 AM: The giant cordon of buses begins to rumble, and we head back to the space center. As we disembark, I race back to the ticket windows and buy tickets for the following night’s launch attempt; a good move, since the line quickly grows to mammoth proportions behind me. Saved a good hour there.
  • 6:00 AM: Didn’t save us from traffic, though. Thousands of buses and cars creep up the two-lane road back to Titusville. It takes us an hour:40 to get back to the hotel; we do so soon after sunrise, and flop asleep around 8 AM.

And Now We Get To Do It All Over Again!

Like last night, tonight has a 60 percent chance of success, with a 40 percent chance of low-lying clouds scrubbing the launch. We’re all glum, though. I’m probably not the only one in my group who thinks “60%” sounds an awfully lot like “1%.” Trying to stay positive, though.

At least we got a dress rehearsal.


Written by Kevin Miller

February 7, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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