Whew! What a day. I had dinner with Jose, took my first test in my “new media critical analysis” class, and squeezed in an abbreviated ride on the bike trainer.
Oh, and I did this other thing:
I’ve now worked three launches in nine months, but each one has been unique. Today’s launch of STS-122 was the smoothest yet for me. The solid rocket boosters burned slightly cold, but that’s not unusual and the three main engines adjusted their throttling to handle it. Our Delta-V margins trend, which is nominally between +/- 3, was flat as a pancake. Perfect. Next thing I knew, we were in orbit.
I hadn’t even expected to launch! The weather forecast was so bad, and we watched on the TV all morning as big puffy clouds built in the distance around the launch pad. I thought for sure I’d be back in the control center tomorrow doing another countdown. But with about three hours to go, I looked around the room. The dozens of people that crowd the consoles during the ascent shift were buzzing, going here and there, busily assessing weather data and making final tweaks to the trajectory based on weather balloons and actual measurements of today’s winds in Florida. Things were really humming. And I started to think that we really would launch today, against all the bad weather odds.
I think the ascent flight director has some kind of special weather voodoo magic. All day, he kept saying that he felt good about our chances. He’s always very positive, so we all chalked it up to his personality. But after we managed to launch through a cold front, I’ve changed my mind. Weather voodoo magic!
The only other blip to the day was a massive chair shortage in the backroom. During sims, it seems like we’re just pushing our way through mounds of empty chairs just to get to our consoles, yet on launch day there are no extra chairs to be found!
Jose is working Orbit 3, the shift that is on console right now. He was unlucky to end up with the crappy 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. hours, but I just got this email:
Ok, something just happened that made this whole shift worth it.
The shuttle went over Houston at NIGHT! and the video was downlinked in real time. You could see all of east texas’s cities all lit up, it looked so amazing. Even through the bad black and white downlink. You could see the two bright blobs of Dallas/Ft. Worth and then down to Houston. INCO was playing around with the camera in real time, panning it around to get of Houston as it flew over. It was so cool thinking, that’s me, I’m in that blob somewhere.
Wow, it’s the same feeling I get flying in my little Cessna. There is something magical about seeing so much all at once.
Flying space shuttles is cool.