The buzz in the KSC press center almost hides the disappointment. My friend and I were a minute away from KSC's Gate 2 when we got the word: scrubbed. This time, it's a critical hydrogen leak that was detected after fueling had been underway for a while. The next launch window is Tuesday, November 30. That's it for us. I need to prepare next week's radio show over the weekend, and that has to happen at home.
Our consolation prize was a warm welcome from the longtime launch producer for CBS News when we knocked on his door. Mark Kramer worked on all the Apollo missions save one, along with more shuttle launches than he can count. And he worked with Walter Cronkite, of course. He allowed us to go up to the studio where Walter would have sat if he was still around and covering one of his favorite stories.
I can't tell you how much this meant to me. Mr. Cronkite was a role model for the two most important things in my life, outside of family and friends: broadcasting and space exploration.
We ran into Bobby D. Parker again. He is also headed home, and he doesn't think he'll be back. "I went through something just like this a year ago. It's getting to be too much for me," he sighed. With ten launches under his belt, he has plenty of memories to go with his great photos. He'll only stick around long enough to retrieve his three automatic cameras from their perch near Pad 39.
I know I'll be back. It may be to witness the launch of a rocket that is still on someone's drawing board. I'll always regret that I didn't see the Space Transportation System do its mighty, tooth-rattling best. Then again, there's Endeavour in February, and the improving chance for one last mission later in 2011. Never say never, right?
Planetary Radio for the week of November 8 will feature the sounds and voices I've gathered on this trip. I'll hope you'll join us at planetary.org/radio, on one of our 150 public radio affiliates, or on Sirius XM's XM Public Radio channel on Sundays at 9:30pm Eastern/6:30pm Pacific. Clear skies, and Godspeed Discovery.