Saturday, April 30, 2011

Miscellany: Successful Failure - The Scrubbing of STS-134


The Space Shuttle program is winding down, and I've never seen a launch live, so I drove up to Titusville to see STS-134 take off yesterday. As you can imagine, I was pretty bummed when NASA delayed the launch to Monday because of technical problems. The trip was, in one sense, a failure - but it gave me plenty to write about:

10:30 AM - Without NASA, Titusville would just be another sleepy little town on Florida's east coast. Today, though, as many as 700,000 people are slated to come watch the launch. There are tourists from around the country (I was sitting next to two kindly retired couples from Pennsylvania and Oklahoma - we talk about tornadoes). People are in a jovial mood, for the most part.

12:30 PM - The crowds begin to get pretty thick. There's a line for everything - the Porta-Potties, the food stands, parking. It's a captive audience, too, so everything is expensive: $20 parking spaces, $5 glasses of lemonade, $3 sodas. Seeking some lunch, I go to the Caffe' Chocolat, a diner in the city center. The service is good, but the food is not. Someone announces that they scrubbed the launch, and the whole place groans.

2:00 PM - The tables are turned when a launch is scrubbed. That guy who charged $3 for awful hotdogs? He's selling 'em for a buck apiece now, desperate to get rid of his inventory. The T-shirts that were going for $30? They get slashed to $10, since most of these people will not be back. Traffic is horrendous as folks scramble to get out of the city. I elect to bike around the waterfront to kill some time.

3:00 PM - Everyone is pretty testy; some have come long distances to see this event. I see no less than three traffic accidents, one of which is a fender bender that happens twenty feet away from me at an intersection. Methinks it's time to ditch the bike and drive the hell outta here.

3:30 PM - I'm finally out of Titusville's downtown, and the traffic thins out. I pass by Knights Armament, which is headquartered in Titusville. I've heard Mr. Knight maintains a museum inside the factory, but it isn't open to the public. I'm tempted to drive in anyway, but the "DOD Contractor Only" signs stop me. Maybe next time, I think. Maybe next time.

1 Comments:

At 10:00 PM, Blogger Kevin said...

I grew up in Titusville, 1966-1974, from age 4 to age 12. My father transferred from IBM's Business Products Division, Lexington Kentucky plant to the Federal Systems Division, Kennedy Space Center to be a quality control engineer on the Saturn V Instrument Unit. I got to see all of the Saturn V launches from the bank of the Indian River, or from my front yard in the case of Apollo 17, the night launch. My front yard was a mere three miles further away from Launch Complex 39 than our normal place on the riverbank.

I've never seen a shuttle launch in person, though. Shuttle Endeavor was on Pad 39A when my wife and I honeymooned in Florida. We were in Titusville when they rolled Endeavor (STS-69) off the pad and back to the VAB because of Hurricane Erin.

If I have a "hometown," Tidyville is it.

 

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