Saturday, July 01, 2006

Houston, We Have a Problem

Twenty five years ago, my grandparents dragged my brother, sister and I to the Kennedy Space Center. We loved. Well, I can't speak for my siblings, but I loved it. It was when the Space Shuttle program was young and fresh. I remember attending a demonstration where some guy took a blow torch to a shuttle tile and lit it until the tile was orange hot. He then touched it - demonstrating how fast it can release heat. I also remember the long lines for food. And as my grandma reminds me, "the expensive rubber hot dogs."

It's now 2006 and my day began with rising at 5:30 a.m. then driving down to the Kennedy Space Center for the STS 121 Mission. I planned it just right, arriving in my specified "window" of time. After parking, I stood in line to get into the complex, through security. I then stood in line for water and a pretzel. Feeling the need to purchase the obligatory souvenir (pink NASA ball cap and STS 121 pin), I stood in another line. My first hour of the visit was spent standing in line.

I found a place to plop down with the other space enthusiasts - in the lawn by the Rocket Garden. Funny. I was at the Space Center last week - had lunch with Astronaut John Baha (my question to him was: do you get jet-lag? He responded with hesitation, then, "well no, not with proper training."). Today, two other astronauts were making the rounds, talking with visitors and signing books.

I sat waiting, along with thousands of other people. Communication between the crew and Houston's Mission Control were periodically broadcast. A large screen showed views of the Shuttle. It was gearing up, smoke floated from the jets as we waited. Periodically, an announcement was made in case of a disaster. Something to the affect of, if it [shuttle] blows up, find covering in an air conditioned building.

I was surrounded by an interesting mix of people. I'm sure I was interesting to some people - single woman by herself. But there were families and people throughout the world, all anxious to see the Space Shuttle. And cameras with long lenses mounted on tripods. Wish I was still into photography like that.

Weather was not the day's friend. As any Floridian knows, every summer afternoon, thunderstorms roll in. The scheduled 3:26 p.m. EDT launch was called off about nine minutes prior, due to a nasty anvil thunder head. I did learn that the launch times are partly scheduled to easy accessibility to the International Space Station - which explains the afternoon time.

Yup, I'm disappointed. But it's for the safety of the crew. The launch has been rescheduled for tomorrow at 3:39 p.m. EDT, but weather is anticipated to be just as bad.

Tonight I'm at Orlando's very comfortable Sheraton World Center and will get a good night's rest.

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