It really looked good for a shuttle launch early Sunday morning. For several days, NASA had said there were no technical problems with Endeavour and there was an 80% chance that the weather would be good for lift-off at 4:39 AM. It remained that way right up until the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The shuttle program is down to its last five launches. This one was to be the last night launch. I may well not see another launch up close, so I decided to make the middle of the night trek to Titusville, which is as close as one can get to Launch Complex 39A without some sort of credentials. So I went to bed at about 6:30 Saturday night, and got up at 1:30, thinking that I would easily be able to find parking at Space View Park.
Then, I made the 1-hour drive from my apartment to the coast. Not 20 miles into the drive, along State Road 528, those big flashing signs warned SPACE SHUTTLE LAUNCH TONIGHT. EXPECT DELAYS. But it was smooth sailing. For another mile. Then the traffic thickened, and it was slow all the way to Titusville. When I got to the area of Space View Park, I couldn’t even view a space in which to park.
I should add that on Saturday, the doorbell had rung, and I sprang from my chair to answer. I caught the little toe on my left foot on another chair, and almost wrenched it out its socket, so I couldn’t walk very far without throbbing toe pain. To make it worse, the person at the door wasn’t even there to see me. She held a clipboard and asked whether I was Joe Travis. I’m fairly certain that I’m not, so the conversation ended. But the pain remained.
Anyway, I finally found a nice parking place near a marina, and thought that when the clock reached T-minus 1 minute or so, I’d just stand up and get a fairly good view anyway. But then a bank of clouds moved in, and an hour before launch, the weather forecasters said there was only a 20% chance of getting Endeavour off the ground. And at about 4:30, they scrubbed the whole thing. Since I was still in my car listening to radio coverage, though, I was able to get a jump on the enormous crowd leaving Titusville… so that was the bright spot of the trip.
As someone who has followed the space program since Alan Shepard’s sub-orbital flight nearly 50 years ago, I went into the whole adventure this weekend realizing that a scrub was a distinct possibility. Still, it was a disappointment. And my body clock is still out of whack. Back in the day, when I was a hot-rockin’ Top 40 DJ, I could go without sleep, stay up until 3:00 AM, get an hour of sleep, and get to work on time by 6. Not any more.
The launch was re-scheduled for 4:14 this morning. I did not make another trip to Titusville. But I did set the alarm for 4, dragged myself out of bed and turned on the NASA channel. When watching a launch on TV, I always wait until main engine cut-off, about 8 minutes into the flight. By that time, the solid rocket boosters have long since separated, the external tank has fallen away, and the shuttle is safely on its way to orbit. By 4:40, I was back in bed.
I hear there was some sort of sporting event this weekend as well. Some football game or something?
To my friends up north: yes, I know I’m lucky I don’t have to deal with the blizzard this weekend. But look at it this way: I’m just taking this winter off. I’ll be back next winter and share your pain.
- The strange Soviet city in the middle of the sea
- More about toilet paper and its history than you probably want to know
- News of the weekend: Man, 62, Burned in Rocket Sled Stunt. Gee, think maybe alcohol might have been involved?
- On a Monday like this one, maybe you just want something warm and fuzzy and comforting. If so, then, this is it:
There’ll be a better post tomorrow… Have a great day! –Steve