That Was A Lot Of Adrenaline

I hate my brain sometimes.

On Friday I wrote about the SpaceX Launch Abort flight that they were going to try to fly this weekend. I mentioned how it was scheduled for way too damn early on the West Coast, but thanks to social media I knew that the schedule had been pushed back from about 04:00 to about 07:30 or so. I’m normally awake by then, so I turned off my alarms. Then when the Saturday morning launch attempt got scrubbed completely, I saw that update almost immediately when I woke up – so I went back to sleep.

They rescheduled for this morning, but later, about 05:30. Even though I didn’t have any alarms set, my idiot brain got me up anyway, only to find that there was another weather delay, this time until about 07:00. I went back to sleep, only to have my smartass brain wake me up then.

The good news is that the test was an amazing success. About eighty seconds into the launch, traveling at about Mach 2.2 (I’m remembering these figures from my sleepy state this morning, they might be off by a tad), the Dragon spacecraft commanded the Falcon 9 launch vehicle to shut down and then fired the escape rockets. It worked perfectly! The Dragon separated, took off like a bat out of hell, then re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and deployed the parachutes, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean about 40 km off shore.

That was fantastic! Here’s to hoping that we’re now within mere weeks of once again launching American crews into space from American soil on American rockets. (That’s not jingoistic, it’s begging for redundant systems for a critical component of human space flight. If there’s only one way to get to orbit and back and something happens to that one thing, you’re screwed. Right now that only one way is on a Russian Soyuz. It had a launch abort last year and there were concerns that we might have to evacuate the ISS when the next crew rotation came up. Plus there’s that whole “political thing” with the Russians trying to overthrow our government…)

Then this afternoon my beloved Kansas City Chiefs played for the Conference Championship and the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl in two weeks.

The Chiefs played in Super Bowl I (and lost) and in Super Bowl IV (and won). Since then, fifty long years, it’s been nada. Zilch. Zip. Bupkis. Last year we were within minutes or seconds of winning the Championship game, only to let the opportunity slip away.

In today’s game we again fell behind early. Last week it was 24-0 before we got on track, this week not so bad but still down 17-7. But as we did last week, we hit our stride, got our game in gear, and ended up kicking ass and winning.

In both the launch and the game there was a LOT of adrenaline spent. It was “happy adrenaline,” not that “oh shit, there’s a cheetah behind me” kind. For that I’m grateful, but for now I’m crashing as that particular hormone burns it way out of my system.

I’ve never in my life been more happy to have a holiday coming up tomorrow. I’m freaking exhausted.

But happy. Happy exhausted.

We play the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl in Miami on February 2nd. Well before summer, we’ll see a crew going to ISS on a SpaceX Dragon.

50 years between Super Bowls for the Chiefs.

9 years between crewed flights out of Florida.

WTFL (Way Too Freakin’ Long) in both cases, but the light at the end of the tunnel is there!

 

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That Feeling When – January 18th

That feeling when you finally get a three-day weekend after going through the ringer with this and with that and the other thing and your first thought is, “GREAT! Now I can cram in 18-hour days working on this OTHER volunteer thing that I’m too stupid to walk away from!”

And mean it sincerely.

This might not be a well thought out plan.

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Blow It Up!

When I was four and five, my father would drag my butt out of bed at O’Dark Thirty and set me in front of the television to watch the first US astronauts get launched on their “tiny” Redstone and Atlas rockets. (Usually after hours of delays, which was tough at that time of the morning, but I digress.)

Decades later, I wasn’t shy about dragging my kids out of bed before dark, or letting them stay up way too late on a school night, to watch a Shuttle launch or the landing of a rover on Mars.

Tomorrow morning (maybe) there will be a SpaceX launch which will, with any luck, blow to smithereens just over a minute into the launch. It will be at “max Q”, the point of maximum dynamic pressure, when the air pressure on the vehicle will be at its highest and the vehicle will be supersonic and speeding up. It will be spectacular.

Now, of course, it’s unusual to be looking forward to a massive failure of the first stage on launch. Generally that means a “bad day.” But not in this case.

On the nose of the Falcon 9 booster will be a Dragon spacecraft, which SpaceX and NASA hope to start using this year to take astronauts to ISS. It’s been nine years since the Shuttles were retired in 2011 and ever since then we’ve paid for seats on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get us up to and back down from ISS. (These nine years will forever be known in the vernacular as “too God damn long!“)

One of the final tests that Dragon has to pass before being certified to have humans on board is this launch abort test. What happens if there are people in that spacecraft (there won’t be tomorrow) and the booster fails? The system is designed to have Dragon detach from the booster and have its own emergency escape system fire, carrying it away from the booster to where it can simply deploy its parachutes and land in the ocean. Tomorrow we see if that system works in the real world.

I had my alarms set for 04:30 tonight for a potential 05:00 launch (08:00 in Florida) and I was thinking a lot about getting dragged out of bed to watch Shepherd and Grissom and Glenn. It’s been a really long, busy, tough couple of weeks and going into a three-day weekend with some spare time at last, sleeping in until about 09:00 was sounding like an excellent plan. But I set the alarms anyway.

Late word from SpaceX (thanks, guys, really do appreciate the update!) is that weather concerns are going to having them target the end of the four hour launch window, so launch, if it gets off at all tomorrow, will be more like 11:30 to noon in Florida, 8:30 to 9:00 here on the West Coast. If the weather is too rough to go at all, Sunday looks worse, but Monday looks better. So follow SpaceX on Twitter for the latest.

Whenever it occurs, I’ll be thinking about Dad and Mercury and how far we’ve come. We didn’t have Twitter then to tell us we could sleep in and skip those delays. We also didn’t ever root for a booster to go “boom!”

This one time we will. And then we never want to see it again. But if it does…

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The Long Version

One of my coworkers was playing music today in the office, an eclectic mix of mostly 70’s & 80’s hits. One of them that came on was Don McLean’s “American Pie.

When it got to the verse that starts, “Helter skelter in a summer swelter,” my brain, having been young and impressionable in 1971, automatically thought, “Cool! It’s the long version!” And suddenly, after all the times I’ve listened to that song, it hit me.

There are whole generations out there that don’t know that there were two versions of this song.

AM “Top 10” radio wasn’t going to play anything 8:33 long. So the version that was released for radio was 4:11. Everything from “Helter skelter…” to “I met a girl who sang the blues…” was cut. Eight verses, two choruses, gone in the name of a format that was unforgiving.

But the full version crept out. Hearing it for the first time, having only heard the short version, was a stunning revelation. From then on, every time the song played, there would be an air of anticipation until I knew if I had gotten lucky and could revel in my eight extra verses. (And two extra choruses.)

Then the 70’s passed, we all moved on. FM radio opened up formats and opportunities. CD’s let us take whole libraries of music with us, followed by iPods and iPhones and streaming services.

So now, if you even know that the short version of “American Pie” exists, you have to go hunting around YouTube or the internet to track it down. If you mention the short version, people under forty just look at you funny. (As me how I know!)

It was a different day and age.

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Reflections Of Reflections

The lights might be down outside, but the tree’s still up – too busy this month to get to it yet. Late at night, when all of the other lights are off, you can see it reflected off of the china cabinet doors and the sliding glass doors and both and back and forth.

Maybe I’ll wait just a bit longer before taking it down.

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REAL Space Camp For Adults

Something got me going the other night (God knows what it was, but then again, who knows what it ever is – some random piece of BS and my brain is off to the races with my mouth in tow, sometimes the other way around) and I started wondering why adults can’t go to Space Camp®.

I know that there’s an adult version of the famous camp for kids, and it sounds okay. A week away from “the real world” isn’t a bad start to any adventure, and building model rockets, robots, riding a zip line, spinning around until you puke, and going SCUBA diving in an NBL-like (Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory) tank would all be fun.

I don’t want fun. I want to be a couple of steps closer to actually riding the elevator up the gantry next to a few million gallons of supercooled high explosives.

So, what if I don’t want to just spin in the six-axis trainer – but take a flight (or two) in the zero-G training jet? (Otherwise known as the “Vomit Comet.”)

What if I don’t want to sit in a flight simulator in a hanger – but take a flight (or two) in a real, live, supersonic T-38?

What if I don’t want to ride on a glorified merry-go-round – but take a spin up to 6G or 8G in a real centrifuge?

What if I don’t want to SCUBA dive in a pool they’ve put together – but get into a real training space suit and go floating next to the full-sized ISS mock-up in the real NBL?

Expensive? You bet, and it should be worth every penny.

Impossible? At least two of those things are available just about any time if you’ve got the cash, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find that you could get the third. That puts us in the ballpark…

How much would a week doing that cost? $10,000? $25,000? More?

Doesn’t matter. I still want it. Of course, I really REALLY want to go all the way and go through some real-life training and then get to ride up that gantry with the next stop being Low Earth Orbit – but in the meantime, I would take this as a substitute.

Why is no one offering this package for idiots like me?

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What A Ride

It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of the Kansas City Chiefs. Remember Christmas 2018 when we went on a road trip to Seattle and KC to watch them? And we saw them play the Chargers and the Rams in Los Angeles last year?

This has been a bit of a roller coaster year, with our MVP quarterback being hurt for several games. We lost four of five games in the middle of the season, but came on strong in the second half and finished 12-4, and even managed to squeak into the #2 spot in the standings and getting a bye in the first week of the playoffs.

Then came yesterday…

Many bad words were uttered as we gave up long touchdown passes, blocked punts, and muffed kickoffs. MANY bad words.

My indomitable faith in the team was rewarded when they came back with the biggest, most spectacular, most amazing comeback quarter of football in the history of the game. Not a comeback from 24 points down in a game – they did it in ONE QUARTER.

Then they kept me calm and my blood pressure down by keeping the pedal to the metal.

Yes, it’s no secret at the office that I’m a Chiefs fan – we have a healthy football culture in the office with fans of teams from all over the league. So, yes, everyone in the office wanted to talk about THAT game.

Next weekend, don’t bother me between noon and 15:00. I’ll be preoccupied.

And with luck we’ll get to host one hell of a party on February 2nd.

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