Disappointment of Launch Delay From the Kennedy Space Center Lot

NASA crews are working around the clock to get space shuttle Endeavour ready for a second launch attempt. More tests need to be run on an electrical system before the next target date is set. Health Science and Technology reporter Carrie Feibel has been reporting from Kennedy Space Center and she found that as journalists and space tourists leave Florida, some die-hard shuttle fans are having trouble saying goodbye.

President and family tour Kennedy Space Center
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia, left, Sasha, Mrs. Obama's mother Marian Robinson, astronaut Janet Kavandi and United Space Alliance project lead for thermal protection systems Terry White, walk under the landing gear of the space shuttle Atlantis as they visit Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 29, 2011. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

(Marcie Miller yells “keep in touch!”)

Marcie and Mark Miller are heading home to Indiana today.

(Sound of car door opening)

“It’s actually gonna be just thunderstorms, so it’s not gonna be a fun drive home.”

Mark has to get back to his factory job, and Marcie to her work as a nurse. They take a last look around at the giant countdown clock and the grassy viewing meadow, now deserted.

“So I’m trying to keep my emotions at bay while I’m talking to you but I’ll probably bawl all the way home and give him holy whatever all the way home.”

To say that Marcie is a NASA fan is probably an understatement.

“My earrings are silver shuttles, my necklace is a silver shuttle, then I have my last three mission patches on me, from the last three missions we’ve been at, then I have all my Mars pin, another gold pin, a 130-pin mission and a 134-pin mission.”

The Millers have to leave today because they’re due back at work on Thursday. They spend every vacation either at a launch, or visiting a NASA facility.

“It’s disappointing but I understand the safety issues. I do not want that shuttle to launch, I do not want my Endeavour to launch unless it’s 110 percent safe.”

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel says that crews will remove the faulty electrical box today. Last Friday, three and a half hours before launch, some
sort of short circuit or problem in the switch box caused a heater unit to malfunction.

The launch was scrubbed, disappointing President Obama, Congressman Giffords, and an estimated 700,000 witnesses gathered on the Florida coast. Beutel says people need to understand that despite repeated pre-launch tests, shuttle components can break down at the last minute, just like in any vehicle.

“Why didn’t we discover it, because the last time we tested it, it worked perfectly. But of course in between that any number of things could have happened. It’s a machine it’s a great machine, but it’s a complex machine and any machine has issues from time to time. It’s more than 2 million parts that have to work altogether at the same time in unison to get you to have a mission.”

Marcie has seen six shuttles launches and has gotten addicted to the physical and emotional intensity of the moment.

“To see a shuttle launch is one thing, but you do not see a shuttle launch until you feel it. I’m a nurse: the blast concussions from the SRBs literally reverberate every major organ in your body. You can feel your lungs vibrating against your diaphragm and you can’t talk. And you’re less than elbow length from anybody else. And grown men cry.”

But this time, it was not to be. The Millers can’t come back when Endeavour does launch, because they have no more vacation time.

(Sounds of starting car).

In the parking lot of Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I’m KUHF Health Science and Technology reporter Carrie Feibel.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...