Saturday, April 30, 2011

An Endeavor, Day 3, April 30, 2011

12 hours later, I woke up. The hotel graciously provided me a late checkout so I cleaned up, repacked, and caught up on some work. I also had time to figure out my next move. 

After a bit of research I decided to check out and hang in Orlando until an announcement was made about Monday’s attempt. Some insider information told me that they were going to take the APU apart today and would know in the afternoon or early evening if they were going to be able to fix the problem by swapping out some parts or if it was going to require them to replace more. If I found out by 6pm they were not going to make Monday’s launch attempt I could catch a flight home tonight. If I found out they were going to try to Monday then I would stay. I also have a friend who wants to join me should they try for Monday.

I checked out and went to a Panera Bread nearby to grab lunch, enjoy their free Wi-Fi, and wait.

4 hours and a lot of work done later, the data I was getting presented enough evidence for me to stay one additional day. Tomorrow at 10:30am they will have a press conference and should know if they can attempt Monday or not. The gamble is staying and they don’t launch in which case I’m only out for one more night’s hotel vs. going home tonight only to find out that they are going to launch on Monday. Trying to get back down here would be more hassle than staying and going home tomorrow if they can’t launch on Monday. Remember the fun I had getting here in the first place?

This of course doesn’t come without problems. Getting another hotel for tonight was no problem but extending my rental car proved a hassle. Thrifty was more than willing to allow me to keep the same car at the same rate however they charge a $10.99 fee per additional day when you make a change. It was cheaper to go online and place the same reservation again for the added days. All I had to do was go to the airport and swap my car for another one. I don’t see how they make money doing it this way but I played their game and went to the airport just to swap cars. I ended up going from a Ford Crown Victoria to a Mercury Grand Marquis with a cheaper daily rate. I wonder how these people make any money.

I grabbed dinner and checked into another hotel for one more night. I hope that tomorrow morning will bring good news. If not I’m homeward bound.

An Endeavor, Day 2, April 29, 2011

Day 2 officially started 2 hours after Day 1 ended. I slept, or tried to sleep for about 2 hours. I got up, showered, and then left for Port Canaveral so I could take the bus at KSCVC. 

I met the bus and enjoyed a brief nap on the 30-minute ride to Kennedy. We arrived at Kennedy at 6am. The launch wasn’t scheduled until 3:47pm so I had a lot of time to kill. After taking advantage of the empty gift shop, I decided to take the tour bus to the Apollo / Saturn V Center. It is always good to drive by the VAB, Press Site, OPF, and Landing Facility on the way there. I also enjoy the movies and attractions of the Saturn V Center including the massive Saturn V rocket itself that they have on display. 

Once there I sat down to breakfast and this lady sat down beside me and started having a conversation with me. I hate it when folks do that but in this case I went along with it as I had a lot of time to kill. As our conversation progressed, she mentioned Purdue and the John Purdue Club. The short story is she and her husband live in West Lafayette and have visited Faith, where I work. 

I spent the next 3 hours with them killing time at the Saturn V Center until it closed and they kicked us all out. The Saturn V Center is on the Banana River and on launch days they clear out the riff raft like me and only allow VIP’s, Congressional groups, and astronaut families in to view the launch from this location. Perhaps someday I’ll see a launch from there but not this time. We parted company as we got on different busses for the Visitor’s Center.

Once I got back to the Visitor’s Center, I still had 5 more hours to kill. I went to the IMAX movie but ended up sleeping through most of it. After the movie, I sat down next to a power outlet and while getting some more juice in my iPhone I received the tweet that the launch had been scrubbed. I still had to wait until 5pm to catch my bus so I decided to get something to eat. By this time, it was getting pretty crowded so I found some food (a massive turkey leg) and asked to share a table with 2 gentlemen. They agreed and so I sat down and found out that they were from Canada.

They had not been to a launch before and had many questions. As we were talking, this girl walks by with 2 purple tickets. Purple tickets are for causeway viewing but can only be gotten if you know a member of the crew. She was friends with one of the astronauts but her family couldn’t wait for the next attempt so she was selling 2 purple tickets for $100 each. My new Canadian friends asked me if this was a good deal and I told them to do it if she also had a car pass for the KSCVC. She went back and checked with her mom and sure enough, they had a car pass. So my Canadian friends got a great deal on a huge upgrade from the KSCVC to the purple section of the causeway. A great upgrade for them. Meanwhile I’m still watching from KSCVC unless I can come up with something else.

Shortly after this they had to leave to catch their bus. Now that the launch attempt has been moved to Monday I’m not sure if they are sticking around or not. I wish I would have gotten their phone number at least so I could check. If you are Canadian, are reading this, and know a guy from Alberta who was at the launch attempt please have him contact me. I think I have found a use for his purple tickets.

I killed the rest of the day and then took the bus back to Port Canaveral. On the bus ride I used Hotwire to again get a cheap hotel for last night. I got a decent deal and even upgraded to a 2.5 star since I had a credit from the issues with the previous night’s hotel.

The hotel I ended up at was an EconoLodge and it was by no means 2.5 stars. It wasn’t even 1 star. It probably has the higher rating due to its location on International Drive but it was not a nice place. The first room they gave me was a smoking room. I went back and they got me a non-smoking room however, it had a note from the maid saying she was sorry the bed was wet. I also couldn’t get the window to lock and since the hotel had exterior entrances having a window that doesn’t look isn’t a good thing. Not wanting stay there anyway I contact Hotwire and they were wonderful to work with, as I’m an Express member with them. They cancelled my reservation and rebooked me at a much better hotel 10 minutes away. 

I arrived at the Hampton Inn; grabbed some McDonald’s and went to bed. At this point I had been going 51 hours on 7 hours sleep. Needless to say, I slept well.

An Endeavor, Day 1, April 28, 2011

Since attending the NASA Tweetup event for the launch of Atlantis on STS-132 last May I have made it my new obsession to see the remaining shuttle launches as punishment for waiting until the end of the program before getting excited about humans riding rockets into space.

Back in November I came down to see Discovery launch on STS-133 and finally did see her launch in late February. This launch attempt is also turning out to be a bit more exciting than I’d like and this time I’ve decided to share the gory details with those of you brave and bored enough to read them.

This trip started Wednesday night, April 27 when I made contact with a guy in Orlando who had tickets to watch the launch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center, which he was practically giving away. These are not ideal tickets in my mind as they are through a tour operator and require you to ride a bus to KSCVC and because you can’t actually see the launch until the stack clears the pad BUT it is better than nothing so Wednesday night I started working on the travel details.

I was surprised at how quickly and easily everything fell into place for me to fly to Orlando on Thursday so I could pick up the tickets and then be at Port Canaveral to catch the bus at 5:30am Friday morning. I got 5 hours sleep Wednesday night by the time I got packed and took care of some work things. This comes into play later.

Things went south, except for me, when I arrived at the Indy airport Thursday around noon. I was supposed to fly through La Guardia on my way to Orlando but everything was delayed due to the severe storms and deadly tornadoes that had hit the south the day before. Even if I could get to LGA, it wasn’t certain that I could many a connection to MCO. I must have been booked and on standby on 4 or 5 different flights before at the last minute, I found a flight through Memphis that would get me to Orlando at 10:20pm. As long as I could be in Port Canaveral by 5:30am, it didn’t really matter to me when the flight arrived.

I arrived in Memphis only to find my flight to Orlando delayed an hour. That gave me some time to enjoy some Memphis BBQ before the flight departed. While in the air, however we ran into a large storm cell so that added 20 minutes to our flight so we didn’t land in Orlando until after midnight.

The only thing that did go right was my rental car. I did the Wild Card option on and ended up with a Crown Victoria to drive around for the cost of a compact. The bad thing was it took 45 minutes of waiting in line before I got the car.

I left the airport, picked up my ticket at a hotel near to mine and then headed to my hotel for a 2-hour nap. I arrived at the hotel only to find that Hotwire had not given them my reservation. This didn’t take long to fix and the great folks at Hotwire paid for half my room to compensate me for the trouble. 

Those were the shortest 2 hours of sleep ever.