Space Shuttle: A Reality Check


I had made every list and checked it twice.   I poured over best routes to take, places to sit at KSC and just otherwise how to have the best experience.  With everything all set, we were good to go barring something going wrong.

Something went wrong

Late June I noticed a peculiar pain in my abdomen.  I thought it was a pulled muscle at first and shrugged it off.  Days go by with no real improvement and perhaps a slight worsening.  I finally decided to head to the doctor one Saturday morning.  I expected to hear the usual “Looks like a pulled muscle.  Here’s a shot and some medicine.  Give it a few days.”  Instead, the NP was pressing and pushing around that area asking where it hurt.  I pointed at one spot and she came back with “Gallbladder”.   A what-what?  I mean I’ve heard of it but never even knew what it did.  Suddenly I was terrified.  Not from having a bad gallbladder but from potentially missing the launch.  To hell with my vital organs, I want to see a rocket!

I was given some advice and medicine for pain if needed.  I was told to avoid fatty foods and was scheduled for an ultrasound.  My Ultrasound was to take place the day before we left out for Florida.  I was not a happy camper.  Internet research was less than helpful as you only read people’s horror stories there.  My only wish was that this thing stayed quiet long enough to get down to Florida and see Atlantis go up.  If they had to cart me off from KSC into the OR, fine.  I wanted to see a launch.

All systems go

Thursday, July 7th; packed and ready to go.  We leave out around 1pm in hopes of making Titusville by 8-9pm.  My nagging pain was ever present but I pressed on, bound and determined.  The trip was mostly smooth with the usual casual banter and the sounds of my son playing his 3DS.

Mom, wife and son

My mom, wife and oldest son in 2006 for our first attempt at Atlantis (STS-115).

Our first big stop was the welcome center in Florida.  I love that place for the free orange juice.  I could stay all day.  Actually, the bugs were horrible.  Still, free orange juice!   This is also when I discovered something horrifying: I had forgotten my camera and camcorder.  We were halfway there.  No way on Earth were we going back to get it.  A snap decision was made to buy a new camera when we got to our destination and then we’d give that camera to my mom for her school work.  Problem solved!

Now that we were back on the road we headed deeper into gator country.  Literally, we passed within miles of University of Florida!  This is also when we encountered rain.  It kept raining.  It rained some more.  In fact it just decided to rain all the way to Titusville.  This did not bode well for a launch.  A stray cloud grounds the shuttle it seems.  Nonetheless, we had the place for 2 days if needed and we had dibs on a better locale if it went on more than that.  I was going to go broke if I had to; a statement that likely gave my wife the shivers.  She’s an accountant.

I checked NASAspaceflight.com all the way to Florida in case something wacky happened.  Wacky?  Yes, something like a bird flying into the insulation or a spare bolt being found that couldn’t be identified.  If a scrub were to occur at any point – we were making a U-turn.  This did not happen fortunately but it was always on my mind.

T is for Titusville

We arrived at our destination, finally.  As I recall we got there around 9:30pm.  The owner informed me that she was a night owl so getting there late was not a problem.  We chatted with the owner for a bit and she showed us to the guest house.  I love Florida.  The air is so humid you can almost swim in it.  It was still drizzly at this point and we were exhausted.  We made the camera run and got a few snacks as well at a local Wal-Mart.  It was pushing 11:30 when we finally got settled and we had to be up in 4 hours.   Now for my next trick: sleeping!

It seemed like it would have been hard to do but honestly, I passed right out.  I was awakened by my mother at around 3:30am.  Just as easily as I had fallen asleep – I was now wide awake and I was in full on GO mode.  I slapped my clothes on, got the kid dressed, got our gear and we headed to the truck

A quick check to the NASAspaceflight.com indicated all was still go for launch, pending weather.   Off we went.

Today would be the day.

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