Historical and Unforgettable

>>> Weather forecast for Friday: 70% NO GO.

>>> Observed weather at KSC on Thursday while picking up credentials: 100% NO GO and as close to a lightning strike as I’ve been in some time.

>>> Observed weather at launch time on Friday: GO!

STS-135 LiftoffI have no ability to describe being 3.2 miles away from 7.5 million pounds of thrust. It’s amazing! It’s awe inspiring. It’s all over so quickly. It is so worth every bit of what we do to get to a launch.

Anyway, a few post STS-135 launch notes:

  • The countdown cutoff at T-31 seconds certainly added a little drama. Thanks GOX arm retract.
  • In all my time at KSC in the periods surrounding launch attempts, I don’t ever remember running into anyone who was crabby. Every one, and I mean everyone, is happy. Space flight launches most certainly must have a cathartic element to them. Of course, with this launch there was that ongoing question of “now what?” In NASA’s Guest Operations we talked for a long time with a woman who was processing credentials. In a her prior Shuttle life she’d been a tile tech on Columbia beaming pride and a continuing passion as she described working with mid-body thermal tiles, applying slurries, fitting gap fillers, etc., etc. It’s the kind of career where every now and then, for briefs periods,  your labor bubbles over with incredible tangible results—the knowledge that something you were a small part of  helped shake the ground, light up the sky and safely move a handful of your associates from zero to 17,500 mph in under nine minutes. The excitement is ubiquitous, though. From the volunteer former NASA employees who act bus captains on the way to the viewing site to the gift shop cashier who bids on working the Apollo Center store because it’s the best launch viewing spot, the excitement and heartfelt attachment to the space business is palpable.
  • You know you’re a space geek when you get excited about KSC Director Bob Cabana and NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden stopping by your bleachers to welcome you to the launch.
  • One of the things I’m going to miss most about a life without Shuttle missions is watching Launch Director Mike Leinbach and Space Ops guy Bill Gerstenmaier tactfully, patiently and often poetically dispatch questions—sometimes bordering on the ridiculous– from the press corps. Both men, engineers by training, are quick on their feet, wield a wry sense of humor and are remarkably skilled at putting a public face on the art and science of the manned spaceflight biz.
  • On Tuesday, July 19th, I’m off to the Johnson Spaceflight Center in Houston for an up close look at the on-orbit side of STS-135 via NASA PAO’s TweetUp program. If you’re a Tweep, follow @handyrandy or @NASATweetup.
  • Next Launch? Maybe French Guiana for a launch of one of the European Space Agency’s Arian rockets.

Since we launched on time, we had few days ’til our flight so we headed to the Everglades and Key West. Gators, Margaritaville and a good time.