|Posted on Jul 12, 2011 01:55:44 PM | Mike Fossum | 4 Comments ||
July 9, 2011
Atlantis is on the way! With weather threatening to delay the mission and an interruption in the countdown at 31 seconds (!) before launch, the crew of STS-135 has begun their voyage!!
Ron Garan and I during suit fit check a couple of weeks ago. After training underwater for over 250 hours together and doing 3 spacewalks on STS-124 three years ago, we definitely have a feeling of “Getting the band back together”!
Collecting samples from a freezer, which stops all biological activity at a crisp -98OF. This space shuttle flight will be our last opportunity to get a lot of these valuable research samples home for a while.
The period of time leading up to this historic event has been unbelievably busy on the International Space Station. We arrived exactly one month ago on June 9th. We’ve been busy preparing the ISS, preparing for our spacewalk while they are here, and collecting scientific and engineering samples to go home on the last space shuttle.
As busy as each day can be, all work stopped yesterday as we watched the launch of Atlantis with a live video feed from Mission Control in Houston. The major event overshadowing all of our work for the last month has been preparation for this mission, so it was appropriate we joined the rest of the world in viewing this historical event.
There are a wide range of emotions which run through you watching any human space launch. Those haven’t changed much since I watched as a child: Excitement, fear, anticipation, wonder, and hope for the future. We hold our collective breath as the beast roars to life. Cleared the tower – check. Good roll program – check. Go for throttle up – check. Solid rocket booster separation – check. Go for nominal main engine shutdown/go for pitch maneuver – check. The cadence of a highly-trained crew onboard Atlantis and on the ground is like music to our ears. There are challenges and much work ahead, but for now, all is well.
This is the only photo we have onboard the International Space Station of yesterday’s launch of Atlantis to begin STS-135. Since you’re reading this, you have at least a passing interest in our nation’s space program and have probably seen dozens, if not hundreds, of photos of this historic event. I don’t need another one. After 30 years of space shuttle missions, this one says it all for me.
Make no mistake, the preparation and launching of any spacecraft is a tough business for tough people. This is true from the top managers who have to make the tough decisions to the technicians on the ground who hone their rocket maintenance skills on the weekends keeping their Harleys in perfect running condition. They prepare that spacecraft for each mission with the same tender loving care they use to polish the chrome to a perfect shine for a Sunday ride. For us astronauts, that’s not “our” space shuttle. The technicians who care for them daily make it very clear they consider each to be “their” space shuttle. The ground team just allows us take each vehicle out for a ride and we better bring them home in good shape! You have to really trust someone to loan them your bike. Same goes for spaceships!
The space shuttle launch image is one which symbolizes America. It is powerful, huge, tough, bold, and at times audacious. Today the famous launch pads at Kennedy Space Center have gone silent. We’ll have more time to ponder the implications later. For now, we have a mission to execute.
Come on up, Atlantis! We’ll leave the lights on for you and have a cup of coffee waiting!!
Living the Dream!
Tags : General