National Geographic

STS-130 Launch Coverage: Weathering the Waiting Game

By Susan Poulton

for Breaking Orbit

If there’s one person in the press center who often gets the most attention it’s the representative from the 45th Weather Squadron. The group, including Kathy Winters, the Shuttle Launch Weather Officer, is responsible for monitoring all the local weather here and at the back up landing sites and giving the all clear for launch. Anytime weather conditions are suspect, the media will gather around him eagerly, waiting for any sign of improvement. He always looks a little helpless, knowing that everyone in the room is waiting for him to give the green light for launch, and that he might have to tell us all that we’re going to have to come back another day. People expect him to be a soothsayer, weather maker, mind reader. When I saw him walk into the press center tonight for his shift, he had a briefcase and several bottles of soda. He looked ready for a very long night. We’re currently in violation of the weather criteria, but I hear the term “cautiously optimistic” tossed around. And so we wait…

I think the pass/fail on whether you’re a space shuttle launch “regular” includes several key tests: a) you can drive from Orlando to Kennedy Space Center with your eyes closed, b) you actually like the food in the NASA Snack Mobile, and c) you understand more than half of the acronyms used during the launch countdown (because lets be realistic, not even NASA employees know 100% of them).

—Susan Poulton works for National Geographic Digital Media and is a self-proclaimed space geek. Since graduating from Space Camp in 1987, she’s been fascinated by all things space and can’t resist sharing this passion with others. A veteran of 12 launches (and over 30 launch attempts), she has attempted to see every space shuttle launch since STS-114 in 2005.