Saturday, November 6, 2010

Scrubbed

Thanks to Dina Mack and Chip Weston, tw0 artists at McRae studios, I managed to get approved for a press pass to sketch the second to last shuttle launch from the press site which is supposed to be very close to the launch pad. The launch was postponed again and again for a solid week until Friday when it looked like a crisp cool beautiful day for a launch. That morning I checked twitter and NASA announced that the fuel tanks were being filled. Everything was go for launch and a tweetup participant announced that the countdown clock was running. I was up at 7am and drove over to Chips house were we would car pool in his SUV. When I was just about to his house, I heard on the radio that the fuel tanks were leaking and the launch would be once again postponed. I called Dina and she suggested I stop over Chips house anyway. She heard the planned launch on Sunday was likely to also get scrubbed. When I met Chip I told him I wanted to head out to the Kennedy Space Center anyway to hopefully get a sketch of the shuttle as it waited.

When I crossed over the Indian River and onto the space center property, my first order of business was to pick up my STS-133 Mission Badge. When I finally found the media Accreditation building, it looked deserted. There were no cars in the parking lot. I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode. Weeds sprouted up from cracks in the pavement. The doors were locked. A sign on one of the doors announced that there was a general warning of possible hostile activity. Had the space center been evacuated? I decided to drive up to gate two and find out why the office was deserted. The buff soldier in camouflage uniform gave me the number of the woman in charge of NASA Media and P.R. I called and left a message.

Now I was stuck, waiting for her to return my call. Things didn't look promising. I decided to drive up to the visitor's center and do a sketch there while I waited. I approached the entrance which looked like an entrance to Disney World. Patriotic music was piped in over the loudspeakers. I looked at the admission prices, $45 for adults and $35 for children. That was too expensive for one sketch, so I found a nice palm tree to lean against and I started drawing the entrance and rocket garden in the background. I was wearing a sweater but still started shivering. I had to walk back to my truck and get a windbreaker.

After I finished the first sketch I called the woman in charge of media again. She informed me that a press conference was happening at that moment and that it would be announced that the launch would be scrubbed until November 30th. I was right to come out but there would be no getting close to the launch pad.

I noticed a bunch of STS-133 Mission Badges on vehicle dash boards they were doing the same as me, killing time at the tourist spots. At least the tweetup attendees had a chance to see the robonaut that will be sent up when the shuttle finally does launch. I drove back west to a building that had a retired shuttle in front of it acting as a billboard for the Astronaut Hall of Fame. To discourage tourists from standing around and taking pictures of it, an orange plastic fence was erected. This just meant tourists stood in the street taking pictures. A Fox news crew was parked in front of me. They probably used the shuttle as a backdrop in their talking head news footage. I heard them complaining that they couldn't even get in the gift shop at the visitors center without paying $45.

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