Friday, August 5, 2011

Shuttle Launch Day - A True Lesson in Going with the Flow

We finally arrive at Shuttle Launch Day which was actually July 8th... Just what you've been waiting for, right?

We're not going to talk much about going with the flow in relationship to this day mainly because the flow for this day was completely beyond my control. And, that is in and of itself a lesson in going with the flow.

The plan was to grab a few hours sleep because we had to be at the Astronaut's Hall of Fame by 6am according to the paperwork we received. Sleep wouldn't come. Try as I might I couldn't fall asleep. So, finally, after hearing on the late news that people were already arriving to watch the launch and debating the pros and cons of making the fifty or so minute drive and the wait, we left the hotel room at around 2:30 in the morning.

We made a few wrong turns and ended up taking the long way around, but we arrived before 4:00am and parked. Sleep deprivation? Mostly but also because we'd been instructed to take a different route than the one we'd scouted earlier in the week.

When we arrived there were already a significant number of people there. I was really glad it was warm out because we were to be outside for the entire thing. Okay, the building was open for bathrooms, the exhibits, and the gift shop, so I didn't have to be outside the whole time. The gift shop lured me in hopes of finding a t-shirt I'd seen on Monday and not bought. They had it as well as a sweatshirt with the same design on the front - all the shuttles pointing up with one in the middle. Yay me! I got one of each!

My husband napped a little, but I couldn't fall asleep. I have a thing about sleeping in crowds. I don't like to do it. I really find it nearly impossible to do. I'm sure I could analyze why, but we'll save that for another time - or maybe never...

So all morning we watched the weather and waited for word. Would the launch take place or not? The clouds would drift away and then back teasing and taunting us. The announcers stayed cautiously optimistic. Surprise! Surprise! The crowd seemed to pay little attention to the announcers, but I guess it often feels that way in large crowds. Two astronauts, Bruce Melnick and John McBride, spoke to the crowd about their previous missions and the shuttle itself. They took questions and posed for pictures with people.


Orange glow beside the
Vehicle Assembly Building is the launch pad.
 Since we couldn't see the launch pad - well, there was a small orange glow visible from where we sat that we were told was the launch pad - the launch pad and the launch preparations were played on a large screen. Photographing that seemed odd, but, hey, you do what you gotta do.

Launch pad on the big screen
The talks and presentations were structured around the idea that children were in the audience, but it remained interesting. Most of the questions were asked by children, but it was quite obvious a few of the parents put their children up to asking. Note to parents, it's always a dead giveaway when your child turns to you and asks you what they're supposed to ask with the mic in their hands.

Eventually, I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to me, or she struck up one with me. I'm not sure. All I know is we started talking. Her name was Sarah Jane, and she was there with one of her sons, Brian (I didn't ask for the spelling, so we're going with the i versus y because that's what I want to do. Besides he didn't strike me as a y Brian. I don't know why.) Anyway, she's a retired educator who got bored and went back to work travelling around Florida helping special needs programs update their teaching credentials, but she told me she was resigning from that position soon. She lives in Orlando and said that she could actually see the launches from her house once they reached a certain elevation. She was interesting and friendly if a bit motherly. She was quite concerned about whether or not I had applied sunscreen when the sun finally began to peek through the clouds. Oddly, I thought she was asking me for sunscreen when she inquired and offered her mine to put some on!!

The launch was on, maybe off, definitely on, just waiting on the weather for hours. I started to feel like I was on a roller coaster as we waited to find out if all this waiting was going to result in a climax or a fizzle.

The Astronaut's Hall of Fame
 People amused themselves with conversation, watching the traffic slowly inch toward the Kennedy Center Complex, and watching for things in the sky.

Funny how excited people get seeing a fighter plane overhead keeping the airspace clear. Okay, I admit, it made my heart flutter a bit, too, but it was funny to listen to all the chatter about it while we were waiting on a shuttle launch!!!! I mean, seriously, it's like getting excited over the pool at a waterslide park! Okay, I actually would because I'm not a big waterslide fan, but you get the picture.

So finally there we were listening to the "go, no go" countdown. A collective and audible gasp occurred when there was a "no go" on the emergency abort re-entry site. Then a bunch of people mumbling "Did they say "no go?" Then the change to "go" status followed by an audible out breath and a few mumbles of "That's more like it." and variations thereof.

So finally it was all a go. The crowd went back to talking to one another, taking pictures, filming things, eating, and any number of other things. Well, some had never stopped, but it didn't matter.

Then at the thirty-one second mark, they stopped the clock. Oh, crap! I almost cried. We couldn't possibly get that close, and then nothing happen. Oh, no. A fizzle simply was not acceptable. A sensor wasn't showing that an arm retracted as it should have. Once it was checked and verified there was no danger, the clock was restarted. (Okay, are we living in a friggin' movie? Drama city!!)

At launch I was mesmerized by the streak through the air. Then I blinked and it seemed like it was over. I wanted to scream. "Do it again! Do it again!" I got instant replay though on the camera because my husband filmed it! Cool!! Now I can watch it whenever I want!



So we arrived around 4am and waited until 11 something to watch seconds worth of a launch that was quickly obscured by clouds... Wanna know if it was worth it? Absolutely! I got to be there for the very last shuttle launch ever even if my viewing area was twelve miles away and I stayed up all night the night before to make sure I'd be there on time. Even if it was a day in which the events were completely under someone else's control. Even though it meant hours in traffic on the way back to Orlando. Did I mention I slept most of that? Good thing I didn't have to drive. Even the coffee we bought before heading back couldn't keep me awake.

What did I learn? Sometimes life presents an opportunity and you choose to either take it or not. When you do, you just may potentially enrich your life just a little bit... And, not everything has to be perfectly planned... Or even if it is perfectly planned, nothing is certain until it is executed. Nothing is beyond changing at any given moment in time. And, that's what the true meaning of going with the flow is all about - at least I think that's what it's all about. Maybe I'll change my mind in five minutes...

1 comment:

  1. Wanna know if it was worth it? Absolutely!

    My favorite line of the whole post! The joy of it is contagious!

    ReplyDelete