Archive for October, 2007

Never routine

Today at 11:38 am Discovery lifted off on its way to the International Space Station. I have seen quite a few launches now, the last seven plus years worth, but they are always special. I can’t see a launch ever seeming routine.

There is always excitement in the air on launch days. Even those workers that have spent their entire careers in the various space programs get excited about launches. You won’t find anyone inside during a launch except those who have to be, for the most part.

I remember when I first started working at the space center, there was a guy in my shop who didn’t care in the least about launches. He couldn’t even be bothered to go outside or even stand in a doorway to watch. He said he’d seen launches and didn’t need to see another one. That is sad. But he is the only person with that attitude that I have ever encountered out there and he’s a little wacked in the head. Personally I think that a person like that shouldn’t be permitted to work on the space program, because there are so many people out there who would jump at the chance and really appreciate it.

I have included Andy’s video of the launch. It isn’t perfect, but it is better than my video, which was really sucky. The durned thing is just so bright it overwhelms the equipment and makes those white lines on the screen. My video did the same thing, and it would probably have made you dizzy because I shook the camera so much.

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The ultimate in girl power

I can’t believe this is the same place I woke up in this morning. The nasty rainy weather has completely moved out and it was beautiful this afternoon. That is one of the nice things about Florida- we don’t generally get days on end of icky weather, it just comes in spurts. And hopefully the weather will stay fair, because we have a launch scheduled for tomorrow at 11:38 am Eastern time.

There are lots of interesting things about the upcoming launch of Discovery for STS-120. One of the most interesting to me is the roles that women fill in this mission. The Associated Press explains it like this:

It will be the first time in the 50-year history of spaceflight that two women are in charge of two spacecraft at the same time.

This is no public relations gimmick cooked up by NASA. It’s coincidence, which pleases shuttle commander Pamela Melroy and station commander Peggy Whitson.

“To me, that’s one of the best parts about it,” said Melroy, a retired Air Force colonel who will be only the second woman to command a space shuttle flight. “This is not something that was planned or orchestrated in any way.”

“This is a really special event for us,” Melroy said. “… There are enough women in the program that coincidentally this can happen, and that is a wonderful thing. It says a lot about the first 50 years of spaceflight that this is where we’re at.”

Whitson, the first woman to be in charge of a space station, arrived at the orbital outpost on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on Oct. 12. She flew there with two men, one a Russian cosmonaut who will spend the entire six months with her.

Before the launch, an official presented her with a traditional Kazakh whip to take with her. It’s a symbol of power, Whitson explained, because of all the horseback and camel riding in Kazakhstan.

Smiling, she said she took the gift as a compliment and added: “I did think it was interesting though, that they talked a lot about the fact that they don’t typically let women have these.”

At least it wasn’t a mop. The whip stayed behind on Earth.

Eleven years ago, just before Shannon Lucid rocketed to the Russian space station Mir, a Russian space official said during a live prime-time news conference that he was pleased she was going up because “we know that women love to clean.”

“I really haven’t heard very much like that at all from the Russian perspective,” Whitson said in an interview with The Associated Press last week. “Russian cosmonauts are very professional and having worked and trained with them for years before we get to this point, I think makes it better because then it doesn’t seem unusual to them either.”

In other mission news, those of you who are big fans of Star Wars will be excited to know that the original lightsaber used by Mark Hamill in Return of the Jedi will be flown to the International Space Station and then will return to earth in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Star Wars franchise. Whoopee.

Anyway, we are hoping for good weather tomorrow to see this bird off. I will post photos, video or whatever I get from work at the time if she goes.

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