Sunday, August 05, 2007

STS 118: Endeavour

Last summer, I was working as a graduate research assistant for one of my professors, a labor economist. I was hired to work on a project having to do with researching competency models for industries that were evolving quickly. That project got interrupted by one for NASA. NASA has space stations integral to the space shuttle program in New Orleans and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. Both areas were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina (though the two facilities were relatively unscathed). NASA was concerned about the economic and workforce impact of Katrina, particularly since the Space Shuttle program was approaching "fly out," or retirement.

They apparently liked our report so much that they invited us to come be their guests at this Space Shuttle launch. We were told of this a few months ago, but it became official, and real, just recently.

I am generally lazy about traveling, and also neurotic about leaving my dog. Still, I've never outgrown my fascination with space travel or with the Space Shuttle (Wikipedia has some photos that make nice desktop pictures, by the way).

I've watched a few shuttle launches on the NASA website (I believe the NASA TV button is the one you'd want to use the day of the launch). Even on a tiny computer screen window it's a thrilling spectacle. There are webcams on various parts of the shuttle, so you can watch it through the upper limits of the atmosphere. You see the solid rocket boosters separate. Then, when the background is more black than blue, the external fuel tank silently, almost carefully, separates and falls away.

If everything goes according to plan, the shuttle should launch Wednesday 6:36 pm Eastern Time (5:36 pm Central, 3:36 pm Pacific) and I will be gone less than 48 hours (which should minimize my travel, dog and financial anxieties). I will do my best to produce pictures and video of this ridiculousness.

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