Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Snow Globe

Well, with nothing to look at on the Sierra Nevada Ski Resorts' webcams, I found something to watch via the web that did show Mother Nature's fluffiest falling from the sky. But that's not the whole story!

I was watching my twitter stream blow up over a 60 Minutes report of US Congressmen using their privileged knowledge to engage in insider trading, which in the case of US Congresspersons is not against the law! Do as we legislate...not as we do, says the new saw!

Anyway, while my blood pressure was rising, tweets from  @SpaceflightNow began to catch my eye: "Inside 90 minutes to blastoff for an American astronaut and 2 Russian cosmonauts at 11:14pmEST: Live coverage:"

This was the first human launch into space since NASA's Space Shuttle Fleet was retired. I followed the link and low and behold, there was a LIVE view of a Russian Soyuz rocket ready to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

I was amazed when the feed was snowing...hard!

Now I've been a NASA kid since I was...well, a kid... I watched all the launches of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo Projects as I grew up enthralled with America's race to the moon. All these launches were from Cape Canaveral, Florida, later renamed Cape Kennedy for President John F Kennedy who sent the nation on the quest of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth".

In five decades of watching NASA blast astronauts into orbit, not once did they launch into a snowstorm! I'm not sure if it's even snowed in Florida in those five decades! The only time I even saw ice at The Cape was on the unfortunate Space Shuttle Challenger and it's Launch Tower before it's doomed launch in 1986. That very ice compromised the elasticity of the Solid Rocket Booster's O-Ring Seals leading to the explosion and loss of the Challenger and her crew of five men and two women.

Launching Pad Ice the morning of the Challenger disaster
The ice on the Shuttle's Launch Tower looked daunting in hindsight, so the blizzard on the Soyuz launch was a little unsettling for me. NASA TV's stream from Baikonur was flawless as was the launch.

The spacecraft was obscured by snow within seconds of liftoff (something that NASA would never allow at The Cape) so the video feed switched to the inside of the Soyuz capsule showing the two cosmonauts and the American astronaut as the rocket ascended into space on their way to the International Space Station. It was a kick listening to the Russian controller's accents as they reported in English, the progress and data points of the launch. The Russian accents weren't as thick as you'd think if you were raised on Cold War Spy Movies and James Bond's funny how that firm Russian edge adds a perceived regimented authority to the proceedings.

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