Countdown to the Cape…holding at 4…

OC Register NASA
Discovery's Maiden Voyage (NASA)

Last night, we worked our way through today’s blog post. But that’s on hold for now.

This morning, we woke to the news that we are featured at The Orange County Register. There, Doug recalls his earliest memories, as a toddler watching black-and-white images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on television. Anna points out, “there is something incredibly awesome to think that we staple human beings to a fuel tank and light it on fire, and it circles the Earth and everybody comes back almost all of the time.” By “awe,” we mean that strangely heightened combination of amazement, respect, and fear. Read the whole story here.

We also woke to the news that Disovery’s launch has been delayed until at least Tuesday, in order to repair helium and nitrogen leaks. Luckily, we had planned for this possibility. We had decided to stay in Florida several extra days because there are launch windows every afternoon next week. If STS-133 is repaired and ready to go, Tuesday is expected to be partly cloudy with a high temperature of 80 degrees. The forecast for Wednesday, on the other hand, includes isolated thunderstorms.

STS-121 Discovery (NASA)

We’ve written about weather before at Lofty Ambitions, but now we’re thinking about how it affects a Shuttle launch. Of course, Challenger taught everyone that temperature matters. Next week, though, precipitation and lightning will be the greater concern. The Shuttle doesn’t launch when it’s raining anywhere along the flight path. If there’s more than a 20% chance of lightning within five nautical miles of the launch pad, tanking usually can’t begin. If lightning is observed within ten nautical miles, launch doesn’t occur until thirty minutes has passed, or the offending cloud has moved farther away. Sometimes, clouds alone delay a launch. And a delay of more than about ten minutes is a delay to the next day.

We’re off to the Cape tomorrow! On Sunday, Anna will pick up her media badge, and Doug will scope out viewing spots near Titusville. The launch delay might free up Monday for a tour of Kennedy Space Center, including the Rocket Garden and the Astronaut Memorial. Whatever we’re up to, we’ll continue our daily posts here as we make our way. And we’ll send our update on launch day to The O.C. Register too.

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