Written by Anthony Perugini
What an incredible experience! From the moment we arrived at Cape Canaveral, the realization that we were working at NASA started to kick in. The other medical students and I all looked at each other in awe…what an amazing opportunity we got to be a part of.
After a 17-plus hour car ride with five students crammed into a Honda Accord, we had finally arrived. We quickly unpacked our bags, got our badging for the Base, and met as a full team in the lab for the first time.
We definitely made adjustments to our workflow while we were at KSC. While working at NASA, it was a “work hard—play hard” mentality, and we also needed to be flexible. Often, the timeline for the next day was fluid and we found ourselves waiting for a start time until the evening before. Some days we would pull 15-plus hours and then be rewarded with a late start the following day. Some days we would spontaneously be called off, giving us a much needed chance to hit the beach.
The delays in the launch schedule were disheartening, but we understood that everything MUST be perfect in order for the rocket to take off. The teams at NASA and SpaceX had to ensure that all orbital patterns were correct, and had to account for space debris (YES that is a thing!). After the first two launch dates passed due to technical issues, we eagerly waited in the Vehicle Assembly Parking Lot for the third try. This time the weather was not on our side…the countdown timer dropped to 30 seconds before being “scrubbed” to the next day.
FINALLY, on the fourth launch day, the mission was a go. Dr. Kacena was even able to secure enough VIP passes to allow the entire IU team to be a part of SpaceX’s special viewing group. This honor got us front row seats to the amazing launch!
This was genuinely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My thanks go out to Dr. Kacena, the amazing team, and IUSM Department of Orthopaedics for allowing me to be a part of this incredible experience. It will be one that I will not forget!