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The Quaking Quiet May 16, 2011

Posted by craftlass in Endeavour, NASA, space, SpaceTweeps.
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A quiet night. Anticipation and excitement crackle beneath the quiet, though. Everyone’s sleep schedule is different and for many, not working out so well. Sleeping the night before a launch is always difficult but when you have to be up in the middle of the night for a morning launch there is no one way to prepare. Some people went to bed in the afternoon, like the astronauts did themselves. Some slept in today and are braving it out until after the launch. Some people are trying a combination of strategic naps that mostly seem to be getting interrupted by that deep thrill that becomes more encompassing as the countdown clock ticks away.

We’re going to see a launch!

Okay, most of the people I’m with are fairly seasoned veterans when it comes to delays and scrubs, including this being our second attempt to see this particular launch. Sure. Any other day we’ll realize that we took a risk in coming, that tomorrow morning might bring the disappointment of no launch at all. We all know that deep in our minds right now. Every other part of you, however, is completely in denial. You believe, deep down, that in a few hours you are going to see the greatest show on earth in this day. Doubts flee and excitement takes over.

Endeavour is scheduled to launch at 8:56 AM EDT. This makes for some early call times. The friend I’m staying with, who is working the launch, had to be there by 10:00 PM. Others get in at 2:30 AM, 3:00 AM, and so on. Friends in the press will go in about as early as they can. I’m not sure how early the NASA Tweetup tweeps are supposed to arrive this time but if they are anything like my STS-133 group they will start arriving as early as they are allowed. My group, the Ninja Crew, is heading in around 4:30-5:00 AM.

This makes for complicated planning for all. The weird side-effect of sleep issues is that tonight has been particularly mellow. Instead of the usual pre-launch partying everyone is just trying to take care of themselves and make sure they are wide-awake in plenty of time for their own timeframe.

Add in the fact that there are far fewer people around, at least amongst the people I know, and it gets even stranger. The two-week delay made it impossible for many to return, to the point where people were still managing to make local hotel reservations right up until the last minute. The weekend made for a rolling wave of arrivals rather than a big rush like the last few attempts and Discovery’s last launch, too.

It’s kind of nice. Different from what I’ve grown used to, but nice in its own way. I may not have seen that many people thus far but that means the groups who have gathered have gotten a more intimate chance to hang out than usual. My household is made up of people who are becoming more and more like old friends, we’ve spent so much time together at launches, Yuri’s Night parties, SpaceUps, and such as well as chatting online in the past couple of years. Last night we spent 5 hours in the hot tub, having some drinks and talking about everything and anything. Talk about a great way to get to know people even better!

As I type my housemate Rick is next to me on his laptop, updating his fabulous Mission Clock (iOS) app and watching Spacevidcast. Others are resting in their rooms. Even though we’re relaxing at a private home it’s nothing like following the launch from home. Everyone around you is full of that same anticipation and a much deeper desire to have all go as planned than I had ever imagined before I came down here for my first launch. Makes you feel like you are truly part of something special, which you are, even if just a spectator.

After all, this is the very last time Endeavour will ever launch, the last time a single crew larger than 4 will separate themselves from the planet for quite some time, the last time that isn’t the very last time. To be here is to be very, very lucky. It may be very, very crazy since we all made some pretty huge sacrifices to be here, but not one of us will say it wasn’t worth it, especially if this bird actually flies.

In a few hours my borrowed car will be packed with chairs, blankets, coolers, and excited space geeks. I plan to savor this quaking quiet as long as it lasts. After all, a few hours later things will be anything but quiet!

Go Endeavour!

If you want to follow along my group’s launch activities watch the #ninjacrew hashtag and list on Twitter.

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