Ghosts in the OPF

I had several meetings this afternoon at the Kennedy Space Center.  As the hour grew late, most office folks left, and it was time for me to leave, too.  But before I did, I engaged in one of my favorite activities; visiting the Orbiter Processing Facility.  Now there are three OPF bays, one for each orbiter.  Today I visited the folks working second shift on the good ship Endeavour.  That is always a great treat.  All the folks are so proud of what they are doing and they can almost always take a break to explain what they are working on.  It is really a neat experience and I wish everybody could join in. 

But it was somewhat subdued on 2nd shift, and there were a lot of quiet pockets.  Nobody was around the front of the bird, for example, and its always a little spooky when you are by yourself.

A couple of years ago, I was at KSC on a holiday weekend.  Having gotten bored with the beach and other touristy occupations, I wandered up to the OPFs and carded in. 

And there I found myself alone with an orbiter.  Wow.  Even the Ops Desk at the front was empty.  All the lights were on, the airconditioning running, but nobody was there.  Just me and the orbiter.  I guess that the door to the white room and the crew module was locked up; and I wouldn’t try that by myself anyway (getting into a bunnie suit is an art).  I know enough NOT TO TOUCH ANYTHING and of course, not to cross any “clears” or restricted areas. 

But it is really an interesting experience to be with a living breathing orbiter, all by yourself.  Thinking of all the places it has been; all the people it has carried, and all the thousands of folks who have worked on her, getting the ship ready to fly.  All in dead silence. 

And it always makes me think of all the people who wanted to go, some of them in the worst way.  People who have never had their chance to fly in space; at least not yet. 

Maybe someday.

Well, tonight I got to look at tiles being densified and applied around the nose landing gear door; SMTCH harnesses being connected in the mid body; valve and plumbing tests being run on the OMS.  The tires and wheels are off and I got a good look at the brakes, something you don’t normally get to see.  No access to the aft, so I couldn’t trace out the pressurization plumbing to see where the flow control valves, those little rascals, are hiding. 

I hope you all get the opportunity to do that some day — before we’re through.