Written by Ushashi Dadwal
The Space Coast attracts many travelers to watch a rocket weighing more than 100,000 pounds and sitting on a massive amount of liquid propellant to blast out of Earth’s atmosphere. Most of these people watch a launch the old-fashioned way, by registering for a special viewing ticket with the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or stopping by the side of the road to view the spectacle. However, this past summer I got to take part in a space launch with my workmates in a much more unconventional way.
Several of the Kacena lab folks have already written about their views of the CS-02 launch from the VIP viewing area on the Kennedy Space Center campus, and about how awestruck and excited they were about watching the SpaceX rocket blast off. I share these sentiments too, however my recap is about the day before the launch, otherwise now known as SCRUB DAY.
As you may well know, there are millions of moving parts for a launch scenario to progress. NASA and SpaceX work on very tight schedules and with so many different stakeholders, that when you factor in Mother Nature and her constantly shifting weather scenarios it seems astonishing that a rocket ever leaves the ground.
The scrub policy is very much a reality of space launch and it doesn’t always matter that the human side of the equation has done everything needed to prepare the launch, including predicting hypothetical problems and having solutions ready. The mere threat of rain or a storm can cancel a launch attempt.
So, back to my long-anticipated launch day. Due to a bureaucratic mixup with the VIP tickets, we were disappointed to learn that we would need to find our own launch viewing area. So by 4 pm, our lab team consisting of myself, Rachel, six med students, and an undergraduate planted ourselves in a Kennedy Space Center parking lot to wait.
It was still several hours until lift off and so our tailgating entertainment included an Uno tournament. All nine of us crammed into the rental minivan in the Florida summer heat to play several hotly (literally and figuratively) contested games of Uno. While some of the med students hoped that special handshakes and secret alliances would help their chances, the actual winner was the person with a very special badge!
While we were hopeful when the skies started to clear an hour before launch, we were utterly discouraged that the launch was scrubbed with 30 seconds to liftoff due to the lingering presence of storm clouds.
Scrub day was a roller coaster of emotions, but fortunately I had an excellent time together with my lab mates and it has made for some very fun stories.