Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Saturday, February 06, 2010

  The Shuttle launch this morning

I started re-reading Russian Spring this morning, at around midnight, so I could maybe get to sleep.

I completely, utterly, totally forgot the plot, and the characters... and it was once one of my favorite books! This has happened to me a lot in the last 8 years, and it's still hard getting used to.

Whenever I get under the least amount of stress these days I have memory problems but to lose an entire book is unusual. I'm under stress, my mom is visiting, and a good buddy is getting married at my place next week... All day I was aphasic, losing and/or substituting words.

All I remember about the book was that I cried several times, reading it. Page flipping around it now, I can see I will have a lot of empathy for the main character, Jerry Reed.

I had intended to give the book to a friend yesterday, but forgot to do that.

I can tell that Russian Spring was on my mind, at least in part, due to some of the setting being South America, and the recent cancellation of the Constellation project...

... and since I'm so messed up, I'm also listening into and watching via NASA TV the upcoming Shuttle launch of mission STS-130.

The video and audio keep going out. I wish there was a way to turn off the visual feed, and just get the audio stream. When I was a kid my dad used to mute the TV announcer of the baseball games, and tune in the radio, the games were much more vivid that way. Aha! there is a real-audio audio-only stream... that's working good. I wonder if I can get a video only stream.... oh, yes, just mute the audio on the video stream, that's working, intermittently.

Waiting for a spacecraft to launch is one of the most boring, yet interesting things there is. As hard as the announcers try to point out ever detail for future generations, how getting to space was done, this morning, feb 7.

And still my heart leaps to my throat when I think of the candles being lit.

You just have to keep remembering.. that in all that boring detail is that several peoples lives and a billion dollar payload all ride on the intricate dance of thousands of people...

Having a good book handy, helps too.

It's T-42 minutes, and counting. The launch is scheduled for 4:39 AM EST, but the weather is steadily getting worse, with only a 30% chance of launch.

I think I'll just listen to the launch. After all these years I still can't forget the images burned into my mind that I sing about so often, but I have forgotten everything after the 3rd stanza of Rhysling and Me, entirely, substituting a flute or guitar solo for the sad part and a new ending. I've played that song thousands of times now, and burned the memory out of me. Even clicking on that link, the forgotten lyrics enter my brain and exit immediately. For forgetting those, I'm grateful.

... some time goes by. It's at a planned hold at T-20 now...

I check the temperature - the announcers haven't mentioned it - according to it's 48F, 8.88889C. Superstitious of me, I know...

... T-9, and holding...

I'm re-reading Russian Spring, slowly, my attention split between the radio and the book, now, after thumbing through it earlier this morning looking for a passage I recognized. Oh, yea! Page 10 I remember - the chocolate ice cream Jack Reed had, at the age of 4, in the early morning of july 16th, 1969. I'm the same age as the lead character, but I don't remember what I ate that day.
My earliest memory of the space program dates back to probably 1971, because I remember how cool the moon rovers were... seeing them shoot lunar dust straight up and having it fall so oddly in the 1/6th gravity.

I could go for some ice cream right now. Don't have anything sweet in the house, actually, except a coke. I'll have to settle for that.



That "greatest moment" was over 40 years ago.

In the interim, we've managed to make spaceflight boring. We went to the moon, and found nothing worth using. We retreated to near earth orbit, constructing several space stations, concluding with the ISS, to which this is the 29th payload. We directed probe after to probe to the rest of the solar systems, but nothing since then compares to those moments when we first strode upon another planet.

I've had people from later generations, intelligent people, educated! people ask me if I thought the moon landings were faked, and I've been to dozens of space conferences, shaken Buzz Aldrins hand with tears welling in my eyes, seen the launch of Spaceship One, and it's all I can do to stop myself from doing what Buzz did to one persistent doubter... I restrain myself, relax, and patiently explain, that:

"That yes, it really happened. Yes, men, Americans all, really did, once upon a time, walk on the moon".

After I'm gone, who will remember, who will still believe?

... There are 11 minutes remaining in the hold. The weather remains a problem... the pace of the operations team increases, the tension rises, but Flight is "no-go" for weather. He's saying that "I think this is not our day today" and after a brief conference with the other controllers, Flight decides at 4:30AM EST:

"Let's go ahead and knock it off."

He calls the shuttle:

"OK, Zambo, we tried really hard to work the weather, it's just too dynamic ... and we're not comfortable launching a shuttle tonight."

Endevour copies:

"We thank you all for the effort you put into night. Sometimes you got to just make the call."

You can hear the heavy disappointment in the flight controller's voice, as he takes a deep breath and makes the hard decision, bringing the rest of the team up to date.

"Let's scrub this launch attempt, and try again tomorrow night".

The rest of the team kicks into scrub mode and starts making the vehicle safe to unload. It's hard to contain my disappointment, but we can't control the weather, yet, or build a rocket ship that can punch through it like an airliner.

Tomorrow, maybe, a shuttle will launch, although I hope to be safely slumbering and just read about it tuesday morning.

...


I've wanted to type up my reaction to Constellation's cancellation since Monday. The reaction from newspace is generally positive, Jon Goff's reaction mirrors mine, but I do have a lot more to say on the subject that I'll say once I can get my thoughts together.

I think I'll try to read myself to sleep. I'm on page 12 of Russian Spring now, and remembering more why I emphasized so much with the main character. I'm not looking forward to being made to cry again.

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Comments:
dammit...you made me cry. thank you. I'll never see the shuttle fly in real life(tm) but you make me see it in my mind.

btw, get your ass somewhere that has a GOOD neurology dept. It probably won't help because stress, like the poor, is always with us, but the memory thing worries me.

*hug*
 
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