Sunday, May 15

Los Angeles Daily News article on my #NASAtweetup Experience at the Original STS-134 launch

I wrote the srticle below when I first returned for Kennedy Space Center when the Shuttle Endeavour launch was scrubbed. My dispapointment is clear. Monday, May 16 at 8:56 am EDT is the schuled time for Liftoff from Pad 39A. Thanks to my friends at KSC, I will be able to attend via cellphone and watching live on NASA TV.

Her spirits are grounded with shuttle

By Marsha Collier, Special to the Los Angeles Daily News


Marsha Collier from Northridge, as she was one of the 150 tweeters who got pick to come and watch the space shuttle Endeavour launch from Kennedy space center and tweet about the experance of being there and dealing with a scrub mission for the next 3 days. Kennedy Space Center FL. April 28,2011. (Photo by Gene Blevins/LA DailyNews)

I've always been in love with the idea of space travel. When my daughter was growing up, we watched "Star Trek" and had mutual fascination with the idea of visiting other planets and going where no man had gone before. It was the ultimate stretch of imagination and magic: the final frontier.

So when NASA announced they would invite 150 people who follow them on Twitter a chance to come to Kennedy Space Center in Florida (at our own expense) to attend a shuttle launch, I submitted my name.

A few weeks later when they told me I had been selected, I was over the moon! I called my daughter and screamed. I checked my calendar and my deadlines and decided to just do it and not worry about expense.

A few weeks later when they told me I had been selected, I was over the moon! I called my daughter and screamed. I checked my calendar and my deadlines and decided to just do it and not worry about expense.

After a thorough security check, and a wait of far-too-many days, I found myself in Orlando at 6 a.m. the day before the launch, driving through swamp-like territory along State Road 3 to the Kennedy Space Center.

After passing through my first security check of the day, I soon learned that almost everything involved in space travel has an acronym. STS is the Shuttle Transport System, VAB (the iconic NASA building) is the Vehicle Assembly Building, MLP is the Mobile Launcher Platform, the base that stays with the shuttle as it's carried to the launch pad. For the uninitiated, it's pretty much gibberish, so I just followed my map. Luckily, the parking lot is still "Parking Lot."

After I got my credentials I was so excited to see that Vehicle Assembly Building. I'd seen it in so many photos and now it was right in front of me. I could barely breathe, my hands shook with excitement.

It felt like I was being allowed behind the curtain of so much that represented our future, our space program. This meant far more to me than our Hollywood celebrity circles. I drove into the private world of space magic.

The tweetup was being held in a huge, air-conditioned tent next to the press building. We were to watch the launch as close as any human could be - three miles from the pad, outside the press center.
In the tent, we got demonstrations of equipment and space suits and heard talks from top NASA scientists and astronauts - incredible insights from those who knew firsthand about space and our space program.

Other invitees who had been to past launches spoke about the sound: First you see the rockets ignite, they said, and there's a pause before you actually hear and feel the rumble in your chest. We were like kids, craving more and more information about the launch.

We later were able to enter the VAB, the largest single-story building in the world - 526 feet tall, 716 feet long and 518 feet wide. The VAB was originally built to allow the vertical assembly of the Saturn V rocket and is still in use today. The design of the building was inspired by Werner Von Braun who felt the rockets should be assembled in a vertical position.

The weather began to cloud up as we waited to go to the launch pad to view the retraction of the (RSS) Rotating Service Structure. The RSS retraction was delayed three times because a lightning-and-hail storm rolled in. We moved into the press conference room to wait more news.

There was a definite feeling of dread among the group that the launch might be scrubbed, but no one whispered a word. We were told if the RSS wasn't removed by around 11 p.m., there was a chance the launch would be scrubbed.

The storm continued throughout the night and the next morning the weather was cold and drizzly. Things didn't look good. The weather got slightly better through the day and the launch seemed more likely.
To pass the day, there were more firsthand accounts from astronauts and a presentation from Daire McCabe, a designer from Lego. Lego kits will accompany the Endeavour astronauts. The crew will put them together while in space, videotape the project, and then the video will be used to get children interested in space travel and science.
We moved over to the road to watch the Endeavour crew drive by from their quarters to launch pad 39A. Cameras at the ready, media and Tweetup participants awaited the cavalcade of vehicles. It appeared and the crowd let out a cheer. Cameras were snapping when ... the cavalcade came to a stop.

The AstroVan transporting the astronauts turned left (not part of the plan) toward the VAB and the other vehicles stopped. Drivers looked out of the windows in a puzzled manner, until we saw the AstroVan come back from the VAB. It stopped and turned back in the direction from which it came. (VIDEO) Radios gave the news: there was a technical problem and a hold.

We went back to the tent and soon heard the dreaded news: The launch was scrubbed for at least 72 hours. When the announcement was made I wanted to cry. I mean seriously? Scrubbed? How can this be? I hauled myself all the way from Los Angeles and there's no launch?

I'm not angry, because after all, stuff happens and launches are scrubbed all the time. But this happened to me. I looked around at the other faces in the room, everyone felt the same way. Even the tough ones looked like a tear was ready to appear.

We were invited to stay until Monday, but many people couldn't. They had jobs and families they had to go home to. Attendees came from all over the country, some from Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, and Australia.

We all hung around the tent, people discussing whether they would stay. People calling their spouses and asking if they could. Others thinking how they could call in sick on Monday. But as we knew to start out with, Monday was no guarantee either.

I wondered for a moment if I could return all the stuff I'd bought at the gift shop. After all, with work deadlines and expenses, I couldn't stay for the launch. How could I ever look at my Endeavour coffee cup again?

But like many things we have to face every day, it's just another disappointment. I can't say the experiences I had weren't a dream come true - it's just there was no icing on my cake. I did get to go to Kennedy Space Center. I did see many things that most people in the world will never see. But a launch? It's still on my list.