Thursday, July 14, 2005


Halfway between Merritt Island and the Cape, I noticed a snarl of traffic heading towards the mainland.

“See,” I said to the students in my car. “This is what you’re avoiding by attending the launch with a real live certified space expert. These idiots don’t know that they can see from the beach just as well from the parks on the mainland. I’m on top of everything concerning this mission. You’re in very good hands here.

My cell phone rang. It was one of my students.

“Hi, are you back in Daytona yet?”


“Yeah, I was going to drive myself, and then I heard about the scrub. So when did you turn around?”

As pilots and future scientists eager to see NASA’s return to flight, the students were disappointed about the not-launch, so I turned down the radio and talked to them about the importance of safety and systems checks, which totally didn’t work, so I bought them ice cream.

We were close enough to the Cape that it would have been idiocy of epic proportions to not at least look at the beach. Also it was either sit by the water or sit in traffic with the competent people who had already headed back, so we parked at an access ramp next to my old apartment, which for once wasn’t surrounded by crime scene tape. In of lieu of a shuttle liftoff, the students took to launching one another, standing waist-deep in the water and taking turns flinging their classmates into the air; and then, because they are all about getting their professor first fired and then sued, they rapidly became bored with this and began attempting turn a complete somersault before hitting the water. I was stunned that the ever lauded engineer-athlete didn’t have an easier time of this.

It was a postcard-y day, perfect weather to fly. They marveled over a beach unsullied by minivans, beer cans, and NASCAR tires occasionally bouncing overhead, and on our way home they contributed mightily to the aviation industry by contesting whose cell phone offered the most annoying ring tones. I would not have scrubbed it for the world.

Competent Official College Professor UPDATE: “Take a right here,” one of my students told me as we came upon the driveway to the student village. I turned, and there was maybe ninety seconds of silence before someone said “Um, you’re going the opposite direction of the dorms.”

the clock is not operating at:

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