Saturday, July 01, 2006
The saddest phrase I can think of is 'No Go.'
Watched shuttle prep for hours this morning, and Weather kept saying no-go due to bad conditions 20 miles away (re-entry landing site should shuttle launching at the Cape not reach orbit and need to land.) They kept holding countdown at T minus 9:00, just hoping, and hoping that conditions would clear. You could hear it in their voices...the 'I so wish I could change the weather' desire. The sky in Florida was crystal clear, and yet it made no real difference. Anvil clouds within 20 miles of the landing site were refusing to leave, and there was nothing they could do about it. Anvils are the tops of thunderheads that could possibly trigger lightning as the shuttle enters, knocking out all it's electronics. The final go/no-go callout arrived, and Flight called out for Houston command and Weather, and an extremely disappointed 'No-go' was given. They even said "Listen Steve, I'm so sorry, but it's not looking good - no-go." Flight gave kudos to everyone, adding some extra pep into his voice to rally the disappointed troops. "Launch is scrubbed, good job, we'll do it tomorrow folks."
People in mission control got up, went and got coffee at this point. Bathroom breaks. Comments about the sucky weather too far away to see.
After all the buildup and excitement, to just get stalled on the pad, with nowhere to go, and such a minor fallback position compromised, it seemed as if these folks just get teased for their commitment. Much like the current NASA budget, they get taunted with all the wonderful visions of the future, and yet they're out of reach. And yet somewhere someone still says 'why don't they replace that old shuttle fleet - they're death traps!' and the NASA people just give a bitter laugh, look into their laps and wish. They wont play the blame game. They won't draw attention to the fact that NASA's budget is cut every year. Not once have they been able to do what they wanted. They'll just wish that somehow their budget would get approved with no cutbacks, no compromises, and no interrogation. And yet they know that somehow, someday, we will get there. We will do all they planned, all they wanted, it's just going to take a little more time than they hoped.
The clouds in the distance may stop them today, but 'we'll do it tomorrow, folks'.