After 25 years covering the news generated by NASA, our correspondent Angela Posada-Swafford describes some of the most intense moments lived across the cameras.
For some reason there is always up early. No matter if the pitch is at 3 pm, must reach the press center several hours before collecting the credential and be happy there, “imprisoned” until the end of the show. You are not allowed to go unescorted, except to the cafeteria, next to the Control Center and VAB imposing building, a huge cube which joins the shuttle to its proponents. The enclosure is so large it creates its own micro climate: clouds form in there and it rains. I’ve seen with my own eyes. As I watched the charred pieces of Columbia, placed on grids in the floor like a macabre puzzle. And hopefully in the not too distant future, see the first hardware of the Ares I.
During the summer mornings, the mosquitoes of the serene lagoons located in front of the clock that marks the countdown can be a torment. And 4.8 miles away, in the shadow of the towers of release, provided the flocks of herons, alligators, manatees, bald eagles, fish a meter long dolphin families entering the open sea because, ironically, Kennedy Space Center is the nature reserve protected and isolated from Florida. And right in the center is the simple beach house which removed the astronauts and their families days before each release to say goodbye.
Hours before each flight the pulse inside the newsroom as the mercury rises. The clatter of the keys of laptops is streamlined, and the voices on mobile phones acquire a more urgent tone. Major newspapers have allocated their own workspace, while large national media have their own trailers and satellite dishes standing adjacent to the main building, where they camp for days and are reunited with those who have already become ” Friends of pitches. ” NASA TV simultaneous display of minute show us what is happening in the place where the crew dressed in Houston controls and releases, and in the same ISS, where astronauts floating await.
Engineers, experts of all kinds, and the occasional blue dress astronaut passing by just in case you want to interview the next giant replicas shuttle and ISS. And Maggie, in charge of the image file, give cookies and a smile as a DVD copy dozens of photos in high resolution asked eagerly. If you’re hungry, you can only buy a sandwich of dubious appearance in the “roach coach”, (the car of cockroaches). And a sin of bitter coffee.
The number of journalists gathered changes depending on the attractiveness of the mission. We gather at least 4,000 the day that launched John Glenn on Discovery in 1998. I remember it was such chaos that I decided to sleep the night before in my car, with a glorious view of the launch pads, bathed in white light. In many missions considered routine by just means there are 100 reporters. I do not understand how the launch of a vehicle 25 times the speed of sound may seem routine to someone …
What is clear is that the show never disappoints. Minutes before each launch, the air is charged with a special power, as if everyone present to join in a single collective emotion. And when the countdown begins literally me my legs are shaking. At first you see the steam and the first flare in complete silence. Then in slow motion, the device begins to want to raise, as if it cost him a great effort. And then one begins to scream as in a football game. Soon the thunder of ignition becomes a crackling rising in decibels and sounds like something was tearing at the sky in two, getting into the chest like a bass club. And the light of the two pillars of fire is so intense that the eyes get hurt.
Perhaps the most memorable off what I saw on the roof of the VAB, suspended between heaven and earth. It was a night for a few seconds turned into day, and even felt the heat of the flames on the cheek.