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Friday, July 8, 2011

Turnerloose At NASA: That Just Happened...

First of all, I say this with all the respect I have in my bones, please no one take the following the wrong way.

I have full faith in highly trained meteorologists... I feel like I do a decent job of forecasting, as well.

However, the guys at NASA are the best in the world. That's not an exaggeration. That's a fact based on the amount of training, screening, and expensive (MEGA expensive and absolutely cutting edge) equipment they have.

For pete's sake, they put the weather satellites in space.

But, how did that 70% chance of storms work out? The running joke I get every single time I meet someone new, or hang out with my Uncle Jerry is: "You weather guys are the only people that can get paid and be wrong half the time."

First of all, that never gets old.

Second, I wonder if they'll get any friendly joking from the launch director, of maybe Charles Bolden will come over with a jab at the next NASA mixer.

I doubt it. I'm pretty sure there is no joking in NASA.

But let me say this, I don't think there is a happier set of meteorologists on the planet than the folks at KSC. They're just fine with the 30% Go forecast. I am too.

And here's the thing. They may not be wrong. Storms could start popping on the Space Coast any minute. Timing was everything.

So... with all that said, what a great launch. What a great experience.

The view from the beach was good. If you have never seen a launch in person, the visuals are friggin amazing... but the vibrations (more than just noise) literally takes your breath away, and you don't really feel it until a couple of minutes later.

Man that's so cool... the next thing is going to have to be even cooler.

Now they're off to load up the ISS with supplies that should last them a year or so up there. Wild.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Turnerloose At NASA: The Moment of Truth...

The astronauts are sleeping. Have been since 8pm.

They're supposed to wake up at 4am to start throwing stuff in a suitcase. I truely hope they were away from facebook or youtube when NASA posted this video to its facebook page around 6pm.

That, my friends, is a lightning bolt hitting a water tower on launch pad 39A... the pad that Atlantis currently sits, waiting to be blasted into low orbit.

According to NASA it pierced the earth some 515 feet away from the shuttle. 

All the genius scientists and engineers inspected the site and said no damage was done to the pad or the shuttle or any of the literally one million moving parts that have to synchronize to send the vehicle screaming out of the atmosphere in a firey rodeo.    

However, is i'm an astronaut and I see that, I'm thinking to myself "That's a little close for comfort..."

HA... nothing like that has ever crossed these minds.

STS135-S-002: STS-135 crew portrait

Good luck Atlantis... let's see a launch!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Turnerloose At NASA... Thoughts on the Weather

This is a picture of the 3 page, small font, front and back weather procedure for a shuttle launch.

I will not go into everything, seeing as how the "Near Freezing Temperatures" section won't apply.

Basically what we need to worry about as we get to launch day will be thunderstorms and rain.

Thunderstorms can't be within ~30 miles of the launch site... they'll scrub right away if storms are popping up around launch time which is around 11:26 a.m. Friday.

They'll also scrub if there is the potential for rain at any of the emergency landing sites, the shuttle can't land in rain (but the NASA weather team doesn't feel like that should be an issue on launch day).

So that leaves us with the big issue: The timing of thunderstorms.

As we all know, the heat of the afternoon is when things get popping here in the southeast, but especially in Florida, where we're dealing with not one, but two seabreeze fronts. And where you get seabreeze collision, you get uplift and you get the big, tall puffy clouds that make rain and a whole lotta electricity. (See also: Florida, Lightning Capital of the Country).

When will the seabreeze develop? Well that depends on how quickly we heat up that day, as well as interaction with an "easterly wave." So while seabreezes may spark a few tstorms around 3:00 or 4:00 on many occasions, that wave may push it a little earlier. Which could mean lightning around launch.

As of this blogging, the NASA weather forecast, which is given by the U.S. Air Force Range Weather Operations Facility just down the road from Kennedy, is calling for a 60% chance of thunderstorms at the time of launch.

That translates into a 60% chance of delay for the final shuttle launch.

The better option would be Saturday morning.

The best option, though, looks to come on Sunday. Drier air will be punching into the Space Coast.

So, if we are a no-go on Friday, it looks like at worst we're talking about a Sunday departure for Atlantis and her crew.

But, come on, it's just a 60% chance, right?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Turnerloose At NASA...

Self portraits are an art that needs to be lost 
I took a very thorough and extensive shower this morning. But before you go hollerin’ “T-M-I, Lewis,” just wait a few sentences.
I was going to NASA, and knew the clearance procedure would be equally thorough/extensive. Surprisingly I was wrong… but we’ll talk about that later.
Today I took my first ever trip into Kennedy Space Center. I drove down I-95 from Jacksonville most of the way. But decided I had seen enough depressing concrete and turned off at Exit 220 – Titusville.

I figured I’d take Highway 1 down to the KSC media gate to get my pass, that way I could see the guts of some of the towns , including Titusville itself, but some of the “Port” towns as well.
You ever drove through a place and feel like you went back in time?
Every time I drive through my beloved Florida Keys (the upper ones especially) I feel like I’m going through towns that the 1990s and 2000s forgot about. I mean that in a good way.
I almost feel like driving the Space Coast on Highway 1, I was traveling through some towns that the 1980s forgot about as well.
Old motel after old motel for the 15 or so miles from Titusville to Cocoa.
One was called the Apollo Inn, and it was most definitely built between 1963-1972 (years of the Apollo space program).

The Apollo Inn as I'm driving down U.S. 1

I mention this mainly because it’s a part of the country that exploded in the early 60s, with the manned space-flight program. People flooded into these towns, paid top dollar to eat fried seafood, buy cheesy t-shirts, and spend the night at what was then top notch lodging.
An old seafood shack was gutted. I saw only one open t-shirt store.
What happened? Did the space program lose its shebang, its tourist-attracting luster?
“Awwww, there will always be another rocket, or shuttle going up,” someone may say.
With the reality that there in fact will not be another shuttle launch, at least not how we know it, a million people are expected to flood into these towns. The Apollo Inn has NO VACANCY this week, as does every hotel/motel/condo from here to Epcot.
One last hurrah guys… then what? Then what’s going to happen to these towns that are already quite sleepy?
I’m not trying to take a political stand on the fiscal sense the shuttle program makes, I’m just going to miss it. And after a trip down U.S. Highway 1 from Titusville to Cocoa Beach, I’d say every town in between will miss it too. I’ll be interested to see if the 2010s take Exit 220, stop by, look around and then hop right back on I-95.