Saturday, December 08, 2007
Update 9:30 am Sunday: The launch of Atlantis STS-122 has been delayed until January at the earliest (more from MSNBC). Fortunately, my ticket is still good for regular admission so I'll probably go tour Kennedy later this week. Plenty of photos to come.
Update 7:25 am Sunday: I was up at 6:20 am this morning in order to arrive at Kennedy Space Center before they close the gates. I've been monitoring the NASA control center audio feed and after announcing that one of the four fuel sensors has failed during fill a little after 7 am, they have scrubbed today's launch. The revised rules required that all four sensors work properly for a launch. More from CNN.
Every once in a while I'll come across something that almost makes living in Florida worth it. This time it's the space program two hours east of Tampa over at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. On Thursday, Shuttle Atlantis (STS-122 in NASA terms) was due to launch in order to deliver a European-built science laboratory called Columbia to the International Space Station (Atlantis is shown in the photos). The Thursday launch was scrubbed because two of the four fuel level sensors failed prior to launch. From what I can gather, it would be like driving your car on a road trip and you can't tell when your gas is getting low because the indicator is broken. Except with Atlantis the malfunction could mean disaster. The Atlantis rocket has four such fuel sensors and the program currently requires that three of the four work properly.
I found out yesterday that NASA was aiming for a Saturday afternoon launch so I decided to buy a ticket to be able to watch from the Kennedy Space Center visitor complex. As is my luck, a few hours after I bought my ticket online the launch was scrubbed again and moved to Sunday afternoon. My ticket is still good though and unless something else happens I'll be driving over to Cape Canaveral to experience a once in a lifetime thing. If it's scrubbed again, the team has until December 13 to launch before it has to wait until next year (when I'm long gone). Worst case scenario my ticket is still good for the whole Kennedy Space Center tour.
Point of the story, I've become a space junkie literally overnight and while I don't know how long it will last I'm hoping I get to see a shuttle lunch in my lifetime. No telling the future of NASA and the space program, or how long we'll have an non-militarized space to launch in to.
Here are some links I've been visiting frequently.
NASA Shuttle page (latest official info)
Kennedy Space Center
Spaceflight Now (really up-to-date info about the launches)
A photographer's website about viewing launches
Read about the crew in this NY Times story.
Posted by Will at December 8, 2007 12:58 PM in Florida
What a great, once in a lifetime opportunity! I hope it goes tomorrow.
Hey Will, I hope you do get to see the shuttle tomorrow! I grew up in Melbourne which is about 15 miles south of KSC so the shuttle and space program have been near and dear to me for almost my entire life! It's spectacular and it sounds like you'll have great seats! And, after all the writing you've been doing, you certainly deserve a day off. Jen
What a shame the launch was scrubbed! I forgot to tell you about the blog that I read to keep up with KSC and NASA, it's called The Flame Trench http://www.floridatoday.com/floridatoday/blogs/spaceteam/
and it is written by employees from the local newspaper (and has won some awards too).