Mat KaplanNov 02, 2010

Discovery Launch at T-22 Hours: A Study in Contrasts and Enthusiasm

Anyone who thinks NASA is swimming in dough should visit here. The old iconic countdown timer that sits on the edge of a lake has seen better days. One wonders where the KSC maintenance staff will continue to find the 40-watt incandescent bulbs that tick off the seconds to launch. Fellow blogger Ken Kremer says this is the first time NASA has made Internet connections available to reporters at the Press Center. And the men's room hasn't been cleaned for awhile.

And yet, out there across the burr-filled fields, is the most capable human-carrying spacecraft ever flown. And back in the auditorium we watched as Robonaut 2 shook hands, delicately picked up an envelope, and mugged for the camera, if a robot with no face can be said to mug.

Sitting in the middle of the open field about four miles from Pad 39 were two of the lucky denizens of the Twitterverse who had their names drawn out of a virtual hat. 150 of them are receiving red carpet treatment from NASA. It was a smart marketing move by the agency. This recently married couple was thrilled to be part of it all. Our conversation was short. One of the newlyweds was in a Skype conference with colleagues in Britain.

Ken Kremer allowed us to join his brief interview with Mike Coats, Discovery's first pilot many years ago. Coats would be on two more missions, both times on Discovery. The orbiter has a special place in his heart, even though he admits that it's sometimes hard to tell the interior of one from another, except for the nameplates.

Ken was devastated to hear that we would not be able to join the rest of the press corps at the pad this evening. Actually, he was shocked that we would consider doing anything else. But my friend had made a firm commitment back in Orlando, and I didn't think NASA would allow me to bunk down in the press room overnight.

We'll be back at KSC by 9am tomorrow, heeding many warnings that the roads would be too clogged with launch fans if we waited till later in the day. Everybody loves space travel, whether it's watching a liftoff, or experiencing 3Gs in EPCOT's Mission: Space ride. With luck, we'll all get to see the former at 3:52pm Eastern time tomorrow. Likelihood of good weather is still at 70 percent, and all systems are go.

Let’s Go Beyond The Horizon

Every success in space exploration is the result of the community of space enthusiasts, like you, who believe it is important. You can help usher in the next great era of space exploration with your gift today.

Donate Today