Once again, tired.
(Yes, this is a new node - I moved my prior log to April 28, 2011 because that's where it really belonged and so I could write this day log from the next day).
Woke up this morning at 6:45am; washed & dressed and climbed into Beluga to return to KSC. Arrived in time for the NASA TweetUp group picture at the countdown clock at 9am. We trooped back into the tent to hear talks by Astronaut Rick Arnold, Astronaut Leland Melvin (@Astro_Flow), USAF weather officer LCol Barrett(?) and LEGO designer Daire McCabe. Yes, LEGO designer - Daire was here to tell us about some special LEGO kits that NASA is flying to the ISS on STS134. One of the activities they have planned is to have a LEGO assembly 'race' between students on earth and the astronauts on the ISS using identical kits. Here's hoping the ISS crew doesn't lose bricks in microgravity!
Ricky Arnold told us that he became an astronaut (after being a teacher and oceanographer) at age 40. Ah well, I'm still too old...heh. AstroFlow (everybody calls him Flow rather than Leland Melvin) explained how important teachers and parents are to children (he's taken over the NASA education program). Both offered some fun facts about life as an astronaut. The most important trait, both agreed, was perseverance - as Astronaut Clay Anderson told us yesterday when he recounted being rejected for astronaut consideration 15 times before being accepted. Flow told us that there is an astronaut who dropped out of college before deciding to get serious, after which they returned, finished, and have flown two flights.
The weather officer explained the weather conditions to us. Other than the thunderstorms which had screwed up our pad visit last night, the main problem was wind - too much of it, especially for the RTLS abort contingency. There was a chance the wind at KSC was going to shift, moving across the Shuttle Landing Facility runway, and that would cause problems. Also, all three Transatlantic Abort Landing sites were showing projected 'red' conditions for weather. Still, his team was offering a 70% chance that conditions would favor a launch, and of course they were monitoring things closely. He fielded some good questions about their models, their methods, and their areas of responsibility.
In the middle of this program, around 9:24am, NASA tweeted that the tanking process was complete - Endeavour was fully fueled with 500,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen in the external tank.
We broke for lunch, progressively becoming more excited. At noon, we were scheduled to troop out to the pad access road to wave at the STS134 crew as they were driven past on the way to the Shuttle. Ricky Arnold had told us that on his way in to the Space Center this morning, he had passed three members of the crew taking a morning jog on the eastern NASA causeway. He said he leaned out the window and said "Don't you guys have work today?"
The response, naturally, because the astronaut corps seems to run on good-natured ribbing, was "Heck no."
Perhaps in retaliation, Ricky told us that the man who answered, Astronaut Mike Fincke, is never referred to as such, but is always referred to by his nickname, 'Spanky.' It has become my mission to hear Houston Mission Control address him as Spanky over the comms. :-)
Of course, maybe Spanky shouldn't have joked.
At noon, we all trooped out to the access road, and sure enough, the helicopter escort slowly moved over to a facility building and then moved towards us - and below it, sure enough, there came a silver Airstream RV - the Astrovan! It came towards us to a wave of whistles, cheers and waving - and then rather than continuing off to the right towards the pad, it turned into the LCC driveway.
Various people started to get horrified looks.
The AstroVan hadn't been in there more than three or four minutes when the news came, broken over Twitter by NASA: The launch was scrubbed. Apparently a heater on the number 1 APU in Endeavour wasn't responding properly, and an upstream heater from it was acting flaky. They were refusing to reset even when commanded from the cockpit. Although it seems odd to need a heater on a generator, the Shuttle APUs are used to generate hydraulic power for the flight systems, and thus don't run in space. There is a risk that their hypergolic fuel will freeze in the lines up there.. As such, the fuel lines and the APUs themselves need heaters to make sure they function properly - and without those heaters, Endeavour's onboard control surface power supply would be cut by a third (I think there are three APUs). Not acceptable. Worse: The failure was in the aft bay, and they'd have to detank the shuttle to fix it. That meant at least a 48 hour reset cycle.
We all wandered back to the Tweetup Tent. Information trickled in - NASA seems to have decided that the earliest they would try to launch will be Monday, a 72-hour delay. There are launch windows Monday and Tuesday, then none until the following Saturday. I'm not sure if that is due to orbital dynamics or traffic at the ISS.
Right now, we're waiting for a putatively 4 p.m. news conference from NASA where we hope they'll tell us what their plans are. Most folks are busy rearranging flights and hotels. I'm waiting; my flight is for Sunday, so I'll have to redo it, but only if they announce another attempt Monday or Tuesday. If they have to move to next Saturday, I can't stick around, and would rather just go home Sunday. If they do delay more than a week or so, I'll certainly try to come back to watch - our credentials will be good for STS134 whenever the launch occurs. Even if they don't have special facilities for the TweetUp available, we'll still be able to access the Press Area for the launch.
This is space. This is hard. Things have to work, and there's no margin for error. Better to be safe, always.
It's disappointing, and it's going to be a bit of an expensive struggle to remain in Florida for the next launch attempt (or an even more expensive one to return if necessary) but I'll do it. I need to see this launch. I've got a VIP seat for the experience of a lifetime (literally, in this case, since this is the second-to-last chance ever) and I'm not going to let that go.
Unfortunately for me, I'm a troll-like New Yorker. The thought of having to stick around central Florida for several days has me making the Munch 'Scream' face - what the hell does an introverted, solo, fat New Yorker do with himself around here? Yeah, I guess go to Orlando. Universal Studios, Sea World, who the heck knows.
I'd be able to work remotely down here, but at the last minute my Macbook Air decided it didn't have a battery anymore while I was charging it for the trip - so all I have is my iPad. For my personal use, that's just fine - but I can't work from it, I need a full shell, VPN access, and filesystem access (and ideally a Ruby dev environment, Chef, a whole bunch of credentials for AWS, etc. etc.) and I can't get that on the iPad.
Oh no, I bet there's an Apple Store in Orlando. Maybe I can buy a new Macbook Air to replace the dead one (corporate issue) and then try to expense it when I get home...ha, yeah, right...still, better to risk the $2k than go crazy trying to do sunshine tourist crap for three days...