Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Day 1870

Today was amazing! I got to go inside the ultra high security mission control building at Vandenberg. We visited the tower where the SMAP satellite will be launched early tomorrow morning. We saw the world's last remaining ICBM from the early days of the cold war. There were rockets everywhere. We were even on a live broadcast on the NASA TV channel. Oh, and I capped the day off by wrecking my rent car.

It was only a fender bender, but since it happened near a big Air Force base, three Air Force fire trucks and two MP's came to the scene. The Air Force guys quickly left when they discovered that nobody was hurt,  but I still had to wait on the side of the road for over half and hour for the California Highway patrol to show up. I knew I was going to miss the roll out of the rocket from the tower, but I didn't want to be charged for leaving the scene of an accident. In Texas, people just trade insurance information on minor accidents and go about their business. The other driver wanted to wait for the police though. When the highway patrol finally did show up, the first thing they asked was why we didn't just trade insurance information and leave. You could tell that they thought the whole thing was a waste of their time. Later I learned that the roll out had been delayed and that the other people attending the launch didn't get to see anything either.

The press conference for the launch was broadcast live on NASA TV. Janet said she saw me ask my one question on TV and that I didn't look like a dork. That's always good to know. I usually look like a dork. I learned a lot today. I never knew that there was a launch facility for the space shuttle at Vandenberg. At one point they were planing to launch the shuttle into polar orbit. The huge facility was finished about the same time the space shuttle program was canceled. It was never used. I never knew that at the beginning of the cold war, the USA only had three nuclear missiles and that they was all based at Vandenberg.

The rocket is scheduled to launch very early tomorrow morning. There is only a three minute launch window on Thursday, since it will be launched into a polar orbit. This means that if the launch is delayed at all, it can't be rescheduled until the next day. Hopefully, everything will go like clockwork. If the launch gets postponed, I'll have to return home without seeing it.

I met a lot of people today that worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Goddard Space Flight Center, or directly with NASA. I even met someone who had been accepted into the Mars One program. Every one of them seemed to really love their job. If you gathered a similar group of advertising people together, I doubt that you'd find anyone who genuinely loved their job.  I think I'll never look at "rocket science" the same way again. These people were amazing! We need a lot more of them.

At one point during the day, we had to leave all our phones, cameras, and computers on the bus while we visited a secret location. "Don't worry, your stuff is safe here," said an Air Force Sargent. I imagine it was. The is the most secure facility I've ever been to in my life. It was quite an experience to be allowed to see behind the curtain.

Molly is today's Dalmatian of the Day
Watch of the Day