July 13, 2005

Word that the shuttle launch was scrubbed prompted a wave of disappointment and a flurry of activity in our workspace. Lots of phone calls were made to try and confirm the report. We did so quickly and got it on the air ... apparently the first cable news channel to inform viewers that Discovery would not be flying as scheduled.

A lot of us are bummed about it. I for one was very excited to see the launch, and we were all feeling pretty confident since the storm clouds that brought rain and lightning to the area earlier in the day had cleared out. There was blue sky over Kennedy Space Center, and the mission was a go. Or so we thought.

Of course, missions get scrubbed all the time. One Defense Department launch was delayed 14 times ... so one delay, according to NASA's chief, is no big deal. However the reason for the scrubbing COULD be a big deal. There was a similar fuel gauge issue back in April, and if it's a system problem, major repairs might be in order.

It already appears the new launch won't be scheduled until Monday at the earliest (according to NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, while deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said the earliest possible day was Saturday) — but if they have to roll the orbiter back to the hangar, the delay could be much longer.

The highlight of the day was watching the "walkout" by the astronauts from the operations and checkout facility to the silver air stream motor home, known as the "AstroVan” that carries the crew to the launch pad. One of our producers managed to snag me a seat on one of two buses carrying mostly still photographers to the building to get pictures of the event. I took a small Handycam and wore a microphone, and shot a "show and tell" to try and convey a sense of what the scene was like.

For now, there seems to be plenty of optimism this problem can be corrected and the Discovery will "Return to Flight," as the mission has been dubbed. I hope so, and I hope I'm here to witness the launch.


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