Thursday, January 06, 2005


When I left the Kennedy Space Center after the loss of Columbia, I badly needed reliability and an opportunity for quiet reflection; and so of course I fell into the emotionally stable world of Thoroughbred racing.

This does not mean I miss KSC. There are fond passing thoughts during the day, and at night-- at night, sometimes, there are the dreams. Last night my brain put me in a Titusville parking lot, where I watched Discovery lifting off on her Return to Flight mission, and I saw the whole shuttle heave as the orbiter throttled and separated, then veered wildy through the sky to crash at my feet. I lay there, floating and horrified-- the whole fleet was now down to two.

We lost one when the solid rocket boosters failed. Debris falling from the external tank doomed the other. The orbiters themselves--these beautiful girls have never been at fault. Brave ships, both betrayed by the very fuel that powered them to the orbit, where they were truly themselves: Spacecraft.

Josh The Pilot flew me alongside KSC this past week. It was night. I saw the sandy porchlights of Cocoa Beach and the still-massive-from-the-air grey block of the VAB and the spotlights on the launchpad, and then--darkness. The Cape just ended. Where the Merritt Island National Refuge began, right on the edges of the pads, the lights stopped abruptly, nature and the space age spliced by an electric knife.

The New And Improved external tank for Discovery's mission arrived today. This... had better be one hoss of a tank, is all I'm saying.

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