John SpencerJan 17, 2006

Philosophical after the first day's launch attempt

New Horizons science team member John Spencer just sent me another entry on the launch of New Horizons to Pluto. --ESL

Oh well, the Sun sets on an earthbound New Horizons at least one more time. The first day's launch attempt was a strange experience in retrospect -- lots of excitement but nothing to show for it at the end of the day. We feel sorry for all the people who have to leave tomorrow, who will never see a launch that they came within 2 minutes and 40 seconds of experiencing this afternoon. But those of us who can stay a few more days can afford to be philosophical -- delays like this are a normal part of space flight, and there's a decent chance that we'll be able to launch tomorrow, and an even better chance the day after.

Like most of the science team, I had no role to play in the launch, so I watched with my wife Jane, sister Frances, and a few hundred others at the Banana Creek viewing area near the building that houses Kennedy Space Center's Saturn V. There were a few temporary technical problems with our rocket and the ground stations, but it was the weather that got us in the end -- a restless wind that kept the mosquitoes away from the bleachers but never stayed below the "red line" limit for long enough to let us off the launch pad. For two hours we sat and waited, our hopes rising as the end of each planned hold in the countdown approached, and falling again as another delay was announced. Despite the tension, it was quite a party atmosphere -- we were surrounded by friends, and it was a beautiful day to watch history almost being made.

There was a big post-launch party planned for the evening, and by the time the launch was scrubbed the food was already prepared, so we held the party anyway. The mood was relaxed, not much disappointment. We'll try again tomorrow.

John will be sending me occasional updates on New Horizons throughout the launch, and I'll post them here. Thanks John! --ESL

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