Friday, April 29, 2011

Hail to the Chief

My homeboy. I was born in Hawai'i 5 months before the President. Aloha, bruddah!!

(Now fund the damn Space Program!!!!)

Meanwhile, in the Press Center

Ever stir an anthill with a stick and watch the chaos? Same thing.

Better to be on the ground...

An old saying in aviation: it's better to be on the ground wishing you were up in the air then to be in the air wishing you were on the ground.

As I headed to the side of the road to watch the Astrovan drive by a gent next to me said "They ain't going." Two heaters on an APU had failed, the weather at the trans-atlantic abort sites wasn't good, and the winds here at KSC showed no signs of dying off.

Sure enough, from the side of the road we watched the van pull into the LCC, and sit... and sit... We waited, and when it came out instead of turning left toward the pad it turned right, back to the crew quarters.

Especially with the Shuttle, it's better to be on the ground....


Last night we were given the go-ahead for the rollback at 2230 and ran for the buses. Security check (sniffer dog), then 2 buses out. 150 media had signed up with a 75+ waiting list, by the time we left the hardcore group numbered less than 50. They gave us an hour but kicked us out right as the big xeon spotlights were firing up and we all dragged our feet to get as many shots as we could until they finally said they weren't screwing around, they were going to start pulling badges. Then we all rushed for the buses. (Only gotta be faster than the last person.)

Got back to my Motel 6 at 0300 for my 0515 wakeup, beat the traffic to KSC and then slept in the car. When I got here it was calm and clear, I heard it rain once while I slept and woke to wind and overcast skies. It's supposed to clear up but the wind might be a problem. Wait and see....

Security is now a presence in the Media Center.

Funny thing yesterday: earlier in the week someone hooked a virus-infected computer into the media visitor's net and it got into the system, NASA shut it down and went on a hunt for the offending computer while they kept shutting off our access to protect their system. So yesterday there was another PA "Attention Media Center, Attention Media Center. Attention all Media Personnel. The Visitors internet is a government computer system and it IS monitored. Do not use it for visiting inappropriate websites. That is all."

There was a silence, then a bunch of snickering as we all "prairie dogged", trying to see who's computer was on the porn site....


Can you see me now??

1,600' from Endeavour. Wish you could have been there.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Heaven can wait.

Today dawned with clear skies and I slept in until 8am. Nothing to do but hang out, trade stories that are already getting old, and watch the activity in the center grow.

In the late afternoon we were dismayed to see storms gathering, and by 6 pm we were getting hit.

The can't roll back the gantry (or RSS- Rotating Service Structure) and begin fueling unless the winds are within a certain level, and no lighting within a certain number of miles. After the first line went through we were hoping we were in the clear but a second line began building.

They have until 1am before they cancel "rollback" and fueling, we're hanging out here and waiting but the number of optimists are dwindling. If they don't start fueling tonight the launch will be pushed back 24-48 hours.

Here's the latest weather radar. I'm not optimistic about fueling tonight and a launch tomorrow...

Update: They're going to try for RSS rollback at 2345. 

The Grand Tour

Yesterday was the reason I came down early: an opportunity to see Space Shuttle Discovery up close. Discovery landed March 9, and her next flight will be on the back of the 747 to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport. During her 28 year career she made over 30 flights and was the most flown orbiter in the fleet.

Of course, the three of us were first in line...

And waited patiently for our safety and background briefings. (I know you're not reading this and are looking at the photos. Bananas. See??) The lady on the left (Apologies, but I was task saturated and did not catch her name.)  had been with Discovery since she was delivered, and spoke movingly about their history together. Being a pilot I've always treated/felt my aircraft were living things, and it was heartwarming to hear her do the same to Discovery. When someone asked what it felt like to be "safing" the orbiter for delivery to the NASM she said it felt like she was getting ready to send her child off to college, and knowing it would never come home again.

I was also surprised (though I should not have been) when someone asked her background and she started listing her many degrees in engineering. As a college dropout I just went "Dayum.... I'm such a lazy bum."

Enough about that. Here you go.

We had been given VERY strict safety rules to follow. No cell phones, keys, etc. All cameras had to be on straps and could not be removed. Stay inside the lines, period. Yes Ma'am, Yes Sir, will do. Shortly after I took the photo above I told one of the escorts I wanted to try to get an image of the name on the side of the orbiter, but would stay inside the line and was given a quiet nod. As I was doing so another escort came from all the way on the other side and gave me a polite but firm butt chewing about staying inside the lines. I apologized, and as I was moving away the escort quietly said "Give me your camera.".

I don't want to get the person in trouble, but I really appreciate them taking the time to take following two images for me.

The business end of the orbiter is hidden inside all the scaffolding. The engines and OMS pods have already been removed for safeing at the fuel facility.

 From there we went to the Landing Strip. These were shot at the midfield point of the 14,000' runway.

From there it was off to see Pad 39B, which is having the gantry demolished. But first, here's a crawler-transporter getting some TLC.

The last rocket to launch from here was the Ares I-X, the first Shuttle was 51-L, Challenger's last flight.

Uhhh... I'm not sure we were suppose to see  this. So much for thoughts abut sneaking closer, I would not fare very well against a mini-gun.