We’ve experienced shuttle launch delays before, and we had worried that the weather couldn’t possibly be sunny the whole of Endeavour’s planned flight path today. Still, when news came that there would be a twenty-four-hour slip in the start of the impending ferry flight, we felt a little sick. We’ve come to think of Endeavour as our orbiter—the one we saw at Edwards Air Force Base in 2008 when a mission ended in California, our home of just a few months; the shuttle whose crew we twice saw on their way to the launch pad in 2011; the first orbiter we saw launch in person; the one that Stephanie Stilson gave us a personal tour of in July 2011; the one we watched back out of the Mate-Demate Device yesterday morning; the orbiter that is coming home to California, and to us, for good.
We were on the “up close” bus tour of Kennedy Space Center when the tour guide announced that Endeavour’s ferry flight had been delayed a day. We’d just been inside the immense Vehicle Assembly Building (more on that in an upcoming post) when the bad news came. From the Saturn V Center, where the bus let us off for the Apollo 8 launch reenactment and to see some amazing Apollo artifacts, we called the special phone number for media updates and learned that the flight is delayed because of expected weather problems between Titusville, Florida, and Houston, Texas. A little rain, we thought, as it takes just a little rain to keep the mated orbiter on the ground or require it to fly around the precipitation. A bit queasy from the news and from our lack of sleep last night (up at 4:00a.m.), we grabbed a couple of caffeinated beverages, sat ourselves down under the looming Saturn V rocket stages, and tossed around possible ways to handle the new circumstances.
Anna must be back in California on Tuesday for the kickoff of the Tabula Poetica Reading Series that she directs. She’s excited that poetry has burgeoned at Chapman University and that Victoria Chang will give a talk and reading on Tuesday. “I can go back with you,” Doug said. “We can see Endeavour land together at Dryden.”
“But you didn’t see Discovery from the runway last time,” Anna replied. Doug had stayed at the News Center to watch the 747 fly the orbiter over the Vehicle Assembly Building. “It’s so cool. It’s like no other takeoff,” she added, knowing that she was suggesting he stay without her. Weeks ago, we’d discussed this as a possibility, and Doug had already arranged for the time away from work. Endeavour’s ferry flight will be the last-ever for the shuttle program, and we don’t want to miss it, if we don’t absolutely have to.
The media update indicated that NASA still plans to get the orbiter to LAX on Thursday. Unless Endeavour skips Dryden Flight Research Center, scheduled as an overnight stop on Wednesday, that means we need to drive to Dryden late Tuesday night as we’d planned. No extra day built in for getting from here to there, not anymore. Could Doug really stay until Tuesday, in hopes that the delay is only twenty-four hours? How much would the switch cost? Was this the way we wanted to experience Endeavour’s move—not seamlessly together, but piecemeal?
Unexpected circumstances like these are the reason we’ve worked so hard to function as a team, to hone our style and story together, to be able to pick up where the other leaves off. We’ve done this sort of thing before, and we’ve managed various levels of separation. We’ve come to understand that the way we want to be a couple is to be more than the sum of our parts, so if Doug gets to see Endeavour take flight from the Space Coast this time and Anna doesn’t, so be it. It’s important that we experience things together, but whatever we each do counts for both of us—that’s what we’ve tried to create over the last two years. We’ll be together on the other end.
Also, it turned out that it wouldn’t be extraordinarily expensive. In fact, though the extra day does require a little more investment, it was way cheaper to change Doug’s plans than we ever could have imagined. So Doug is now all set to stay on the Space Coast until Tuesday afternoon—plans were remade even before dinner last night. Remaking our plans—remaking ourselves in small and sometimes large ways—is not always easy, but it’s exciting. We hope that these circumstances require just a twenty-four-hour remaking. If the situation requires more, NASA and Lofty Ambitions will deal with that tomorrow. For now, we’re spending a day together on the Space Coast before Doug drops Anna at the airport. We’re together now, and we’ll be together on the other coast soon.