"Everyone seems broke and in need of a bailout. But the money still has to be somewhere, right?"
"So where did it all go?"
"Hey, wait a minute. Did anyone check inside the shuttle?!"
A full moon rose on the velvet sky wrapping a gently lapsing Atlantic ocean. People strolled the white beach or lined up at the barbecue, chatting about meteorites, space, politics - and the current economy.
The Astronaut wives
T-1, Don's kick-off party at Cocoa beach was like out of an Apollo movie. The host wasn't present though; Don and his seven buddies were already locked up at the Kennedy spaceport in preps for the launch.
In place to support Don's wife Micki; European and American Astronaut wives mingled in the crowd. All Houston neighbors, these down-to earth women told us how they took shelter at each other's places through the recent hurricane and (with some more white wine from the cooler) - about their unusual lives.
"Are you scared?," I asked Micki.
"Of course I am."
One told how her husband once called home from the Space Station, only to get the answering machine. "Honey, I'm calling from Space and no one is home?" said the grumpy message. He tried his mother next; "who got so spooked that she just hung up," recalled the British vivacious blonde.
"There should be a reality show made about you guys," I said. Contrary to other women we asked later at the launch; these ladies didn't want to go up themselves. Perhaps they knew too much.
Endeavour was scheduled to launch the following day, Friday November 14. The weather had looked iffy for a while, but by the time we entered the Kennedy Space Center by late pm, all systems were go.
As Don's friends, we were to view his departure from the VIP area at Banana creek, a premier launch viewing site at KSC. The site sat across the sea from the actual launch pad and sported a glass building featuring the Saturn V rocket, the grandest yet built by NASA. There was plenty to see, but the largest crowd was in the cafeteria.
Dusk fell. People took their seats outside at the viewing benches or the grass area sloping to the sea. In the distance; the launch pad ablaze in a strange white light, the full moon growing bigger and bigger with a few night clouds ghostly outlined above the Florida swamp.
The free and the brave
We could sense the alligators taking shelter for the night. "Watch the water at the take-off," a staff woman told a kid, "the fish will jump out of the sea."
But this ocean was dark; we were to view a rare night launch - the last scheduled by NASA. Monitors showed close ups from the shuttle, and the countdown to 8 pm. People lowered their voices, their anticipation thickening the moist, tropical air.
Suddenly, the American National Anthem rose softly from loud speakers. People turned their faces from the launch pad to the flag, increasingly joining until the final words:
Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust";
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Now only seconds remained - five, four, three... - the home of the brave; a tremendous roar sounded off in the distance. Giant clouds of smoke and fire enveloped the ground. A monster ball of light took off, peoples' wide-eyed faces glowing below - all looking up.
A thing like this
The immense light-bolt rose higher and higher, "how can anyone survive this," we thought to ourselves. "Your friend is in there," a buddy commented. "Will I lose another one this full moon," I wondered; remembering Inaki, my awe mixing with terror that made me sick to my stomach.
The shuttle dropped its last stages and pierced the sky in a final blast of glowing shock waves rippling the black in all directions. By the cheers of the crowd, I realized that Don was safe. "Inaki would have liked this," Tom said softly.
The experience, taking no more than a minute or two, was etched in our minds for ever. Through the roars all around us, "how can we accomplish a thing like this," we thought to ourselves for all mankind.
[Text by Tina Sjogren].
He built galaxies in soap bubbles while taking weightless showers; shot images of Everest for Google maps; made abstract paintings using new techniques available by the physics of the Universe - and returned home in a ball of fire, crashing on the Kazakh tundra in a scorched rocket head.
Now Don Pettit is back up again. Stay tuned for updates, and meanwhile check out the NASA blog from the station in the links section.
Space shuttle Endeavour lifted off at 7:55 p.m. EST on its STS-126 mission to the International Space Station.
The shuttle docked with the International Space Station on Sunday, setting the stage for the crew to move the Leonardo cargo module into place Monday and begin transferring equipment and supplies.
Primary Payload: Multi-Purpose Logistics Module
Launched: Nov. 14
Launch Time: 7:55 p.m. EST
Launch Pad: 39A
Mission Duration: 15 days
Landing Date: Nov. 29
Landing Time: 2:23 p.m. EST
Landing Site: Kennedy Space Center
Inclination/Altitude: 51.6 degrees/122 nautical miles
NASA Mission Summary
STS-126 MISSION SUMMARY NOVEMBER 2008
SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR (STS-126)
Space shuttle Endeavour's STS-126 flight will feature important repair work and prepare the International Space Station to house six crew members for long-duration missions. The 15-day
flight with its four planned spacewalks will primarily focus on servicing the station's two Solar Alpha Rotary Joints, which allow its solar arrays to track the sun. (The starboard SARJ has had
limited use since September 2007.)
Endeavour will carry about 32,000 pounds, which will include supplies and equipment necessary to double the crew size from three to six members in spring 2009. The new station cargo includes additional sleeping quarters, a second toilet and a resistance exercise device. The shuttle also will deliver a new crew member and bring back another after more than five months aboard the station.
A full moon rose on a velvet sky wrapping the gently lapsing Atlantic ocean. People strolled the white beach, lined up at the barbecue or chatted about meteorites, space - and the current economy.
"Then conquer we must, when our cause is just." Remember that song? In 2008 ExplorersWeb was lucky to witness the launch of Endeavour, complete with Cocoa Beach sendoff.
The VIP area at Banana creek is a premier launch viewing site at KSC, sporting a glass building featuring the Saturn V rocket. Image ExWeb
The giant light-bolt rose higher and higher, "how can anyone survive this," we thought to ourselves. "Your friend is in there," a buddy commented
Endeavour crew working outside the International Space Station during the second spacewalk of the STS-126 mission yesterday.