Entries in space (5)
So the long and winding road for the launch of Discovery STS133 and the NASA Tweet-up continues. Essentially, because they aren't certain why cracks formed in the external tank, NASA experts have decided to perform tests on the tank, which will delay the launch until at least February 3rd. The social media Tweet-up around this event is still alive and many of the original 150 guests are expected to return for the potential launch in the very early morning hours that day. I'll just say with a 1:30am launch on February 3rd, we're all very luck this isn't happening at the Alaska launch site.
Well, it's been almost a month since I wrote something here. Not because I didn't want to, but some ofther project always comes up. In the interim month I began the NaNoWriMo 2010 project which is eating up tons of my time. I'll try to write more about that soon. But to update this blog, the launch of Discovery was delayed several times. I was planning to fly to Florida on a Saturday, have NASA meetings on Sunday, watch the launch on Monday and fly back on Tuesday. So a couple of days away from work and my family was planning to absorb some of the other challenges. Then the launch was delayed until Tuesday, so everything shifted by a day and I moved my flight to Sunday. At that point, it all still kind of worked.
The it was delayed again until Wednesday and that's when I had to think hard about everything. The NASA meetings didn't move a day, so I would now fly on Sunday, meet on Monday, have some sort of day on Tuesday, watch the launch on Wednesday and fly back Thursday. It had now become a whole week event. I also knew that based on early weather predictions, if they slipped another day to Thursday, weather would likely prevent a launch that day, which would mean Friday. So a Sunday trip might mean an entire week away from home and work. THAT became a problem in my mind for my life commitments, so I dropped out of the meetings that week.
The Wednesday launch did slip to Thursday and was WX delayed until Friday as I suspected. On then on Friday during fueling they found a few problems and scrubbed the entire mission. The folks who were still there had a great time meeting and getting amazing access to NASA facilities and people. I know they all feel very luck to have gone. Based on the way it turned out, I was very glad I made the decision I did, for my family and for me.
Now there is talk of Discovery going up in a December launch window, and luckily for me, my opportunity has been extended. So I am now waiting to know if they plan to launch in the Nov 30 to Dec 6 window and if I can get there, I will still get to see a live Shuttle launch.
Stay tuned and I'll try to write more.
Today things got interesting in a surprising and different way. Because of a helium leak in two quick-disconnect fittings in pressurization systems used by the ship's right-side orbital maneuvering system rocket pod, the launch schedule had to be adjusted. That's a mouthful of a problem description, but probably not a huge repair issue. However, given the time that was lost this week to repairing other unrelated leaks, it did mean that NASA had to shift the launch by 24 hours. That then meant that the Tweet-up schedule also got shifted by 24 hours. So instead of starting our meetings on Sunday mid-day, we will be starting them on Monday.
This meant for me that I had a decision to make. Could I still afford the days away from home and work to attend this launch one day later? It involved some conversations with the hotel about extra days and going online to review airplane and rental car options. But basically, because it was only a one-day shift, the difference was minimal and in fact allowed me to do some things at home for that extra day before leaving. So I made the decision to switch everything. What I know is that even this one day shift could shift again, and so I am essentially going for the Tweet-up experience at NASA. If the launch happens to go when I am down there, then that's great. But even if it gets delayed again, the Tweet-up will be worth it.
There is a slightly greater chance that weather will be a factor on Tuesday, so I'm not ruling out another delay, but for now the shift is on to Tuesday and I've shifted with it.
So today a few things began to cook in terms of the NASA Tweetup for STS-133. Most of the day saw growing traffic discussions about bandwidth at the Tweet-up site itself. It was probably started by more than a few people discussing plans to broadcast through their mobile devices to the internet. The technology has grown rapidly over the past few years and now it is very possible to send a video signal to the web from your phone.
Of course that assumes that you have enough bandwidth to send out the signal. And even with compressed video, this is still a considerable amount of data. So in the right situation, it can seem magical and futuristic to go live from your video phone. But in most situations, things are still not quite there. So what evolved was a discussion of how 3G and WiFi work and what kinds of experiences people had at prior NASA Tweet-ups. Fortunately this is a good and experienced group of people willing to share information and so pretty quickly a reality check spread around.
There should be connectivity, but not likely enough for a lot of individual streams. And with that in mind, some people warned that if too many of us stream video, the data headroom available for others will drop off a lot. Some people are also bringing MiFi devices, which will make for an interesting mix of options in the room. At a minimum, I am certain I will be able to post text, and that's probably all that matters. The other thing to keep in mind is the lack of 3G signal on launch day itself. Because of the hundreds of thousands of expected viewers in the Cocoa Beach area, there might be limited 3G data for all mobile communications. Should be an interesting social media and technical challenge.