Groundhog Day Shuttle

NASA Prepares To Launch ... Again ... and Again

NASA Prepares To Launch ... Again ... and Again

(Sent to me in email so I don’t know the provenance, but looks like a US Gov. picture)

Last time I’d said:

NASA Slides Again!

And we’re having a Déjà Vu moment… again…

So this time it has slipped to February 3rd. That’s great in that it moves the launch away from the Christmas Holiday. It also means that I can stop “playing chicken” with the airfare schedule… I’d found this nice $109 fare on December 13 on Southwest … but … then there was that nasty “getting home” issue after the launch. If they had slipped a tiny bit, I’d have had the choice of driving home or trying to book a last minute flight just before Christmas and they were running about $500+ And, of course, you can’t book the return in advance as you don’t know when the launch might happen… so you get to ‘play chicken’ with the approaching Christmas Day and needing 4 drive days or God Awful airfare. Thankfully that whole set of ‘issues’ is now mooted. No airfare booked and I played the hand out correctly.


The only “issue” that’s a PITA now is that the car I left in Florida ( back in October has the registration expire in early January. And it needs a “California smog test”… that they don’t do in Florida… So now I get to figure out if there is some kind of California wavier for “it’s out of the state right now” or if I get to fly to Florida for nothing, then drive home consuming 4 days and a few hundred dollars, just to get a ‘smog test’ that’s acceptable to California… Maybe I’ll call the local Orlando Mercedes dealer and ask them if they can do the test…

I’d just register the thing in Florida, but it looks like for a ‘first time reg’ that runs about $400 to get a plate made. (After that, you “own” that license plate and can move it from car to car for very low cost.. so I get to decide how long term a commitment I want to make to Florida…) Maybe I can just find an old junker in Florida and buy it for the plate…

Ah, well. At any rate, the air travel issue is off the table for a while. Who’d have thought that a 4 month lead time was not enough for the smog test…

Schedule updates here:

So let’s see… If it says Feb 3 now, I probably will need a ticket for March 15 … ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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16 Responses to Groundhog Day Shuttle

  1. PhilJourdan says:

    Beware! The Ides of March!

  2. gnomish says:

    I don’t think we get possession till Jan 1 or so anyway. But that postponement of the launch might give me a chance to actually take some photos of the launch from near space, eh.
    How awesome a backyard party would that be?

  3. boballab says:


    I believe that you can’t get a California Smog test anywhere but in a California Licensed smog test station.

    This is based on my knowledge from 15 years ago and from what I see on the Cali DMV site:

    Looking at their look up stations it doesn’t give you a selectable state option.

  4. boballab says:

    Also it appears you are SOL on an exemption:

    Does my vehicle qualify for a smog exemption?

    Smog inspections are required unless your vehicle is:

    Gasoline powered 1975 year model or older
    Diesel powered manufactured prior to 1998 or with a Gross Vehicle Weight rating (GVWR) of more than 14,000 lbs
    Natural gas powered with a GVWR rating of more than 14,000 lbs.

  5. David says:

    THAT SUCKS! We have vacationed in St Augustine the last two weeks in December for the last four years and I thought I would finally realize my dream of being able to view a launch in person. I didn’t have high hopes considering the holiday, but I was still thinking it might happen. Oh well. Good luck on getting there yourself EM.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    I’ll most likely just make it the Florida Car, then.

    I have too many cars as it is, with 2 wagons still in California. So I don’t need another wagon here. (and I’m keeping the Diesel here as it never “does smog” ;-)

    Since it’s about $400 either way (drive it back or reg in Florida) and since it’s less effort to ship paper there than to bring the car here…

    But I’d planned to make my SL the Florida Car.

    Oh Well.

    Florida car, here I come…

    Guess now it’s just finding the minimal cost path to a Florida plate.


    We were looking at watching the launch from up the coast about 10 miles north of the launch. Will you have a better view? If so, you might get some email asking directions and preference of party favors ;-)

  7. Larry Geiger says:

    Just pack it all in and come on down. You’re just itching to leave the left coast anyway! If things get better (hee hee!) you can go back.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry Geiger:

    If it was “just me” I’d have been gone a decade ago. I’ve one more kid to get graduated (so about 1.5 years) then it’s just me and the Mrs. Her mom is 86 and we had been staying partly for her. As her condition has reached the point where she’s not all the sure where she is any more, a move is more likely. Plus 88 is not so likely.

    Short from: I’m work’n on it!

  9. gnomish says:

    realistically, there won’t be time to get a camera rig w/ balloon prepared in time for the launch…

    watch ‘space chair’ on youtube, though – it’s pretty inspiring.

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    So this Toshiba one:

    or this L.A. one:

    Or this longer “making of” the Toshiba one:

    Though no chair, this one is “way cool”:

    So, if none of those is it, linky linky…

    Though I think I really like this “chair in space” rather a lot:

    It builds… and the end sequence is just amazing…

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    This one has an interesting interview with Joe Kittinger at 72 years old describing what he did. Seems he had leak in one glove during the jump and didn’t tell the ground controller as he thought he could make it without a pressure glove on one hand… OMG…


    Nothing like putting your gear on AFTER you leave the aircraft…

    Of course, it could be worse:

    Or better:

    This guy straps on some wings and glides from 30,000 ft across the English Channel… Wonder if he had his passport with him?…

    And yes, I’ve jumped from a plane. Yes, more than once. Wife’s Dad was 101st Airborn. My son has already jumped. My daughter wants to jump soon. We’re that kind of people…

    I sporadically have this fantasy of making a one man hot air balloon and doing balloon dives from ‘way high’ without the airplane problem… Haven’t quite worked out the balloon recovery vs stowage issues ;-)

    Like the wings, though. Nice touch…. but this bird is faster at 242 MPH:

    I think we have a ways to go…

  12. Chuckles says:

    By ‘one man balloon’ are you referring to the Cloudhopper concept, or the slightly more terrifying ‘tenth of a second self-disassembling balloon’, which would be unlikely to find favour with most pilots…

    And which reminds me, you have made several throw-away allusions to hot air ballooning of late.
    Are we to regard this as a requiem for a long neglected pastime, a one off recent folly which impressed, a current pleasant time waster or a future potential one?

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    Rather like the “Cloudhopper”. I first saw something like this back about 1975 and wanted one. Looks like other folks did too, since now they are commercial. (Then they were home made jobs).

    FWIW #1: I’ve not flown a helo, but have flown a power plane a couple of times (as a guest of the pilot), and flown balloons and gliders (as a student) in addition to jumping from a plane (and not those ‘buddy jumps’ where you are just luggage:.. all alone.) If I’d had a larger bucket of money I’d have done a lot more of it.

    Allusions are to a lost love… When in college I was “ground crew” on a hot air balloon. You get to do all the work in exchange for the occasional ride (that turned out to be waaayy to “occasional”…)

    A friends Dad was the Balloonmeister (and eventual FAA examiner). It was how he made a living in ‘retirement’.

    Most hot air balloonists keep close to the ground. Don’t know why. I think it’s because you don’t drift as far then, so the ground crew has an easier time. That, and you don’t have many jets to worry about ;-)

    I’d always thought it would be great fun to get ‘way high’ and see the world from, oh, 15,000 feet or so. With a medium sized envelope and no gondola it ought to be achievable without much effort.

    So on my “maybe someday” list is “get a balloon and pilots licence”. Just not as big a priority as “pay college for kid” or “Oh, yeah; food, water, heat, light, car…”.

    From time to time I’ve thought of just making one. It isn’t that hard. Takes a good sewing machine, nylon thread, a boat load of ripstop nylon cloth, some binding tape, some cables, a bit of velcro and rope (for the open and get me down parts) a couple of rope rings (metal) and a burner with tank. Heck, if they could do it in 1800 it can’t be very hard…

    OTOH: It is where I developed a sense of thermals… and how they really pick up A LOT at sun impact. It was the ‘launch at Oh Dark Thirty just as sun rises but before ground warms’ that was never my favorite thing. About 9 am you’re getting thermals and winds kicking up. VERY hard to inflate on the ground then.

    Later I flew a glider and came to appreciate thermals more ;-) and IMHO the best life would be ballooning in the morning, then gliders in the afternoon… Complementary they are.

    Maybe someday…

    Part of my fantasy is just to make a hot air balloon that, when you deflate it, is dynamically reformed into a parachute canopy. You’ve got the cloth and attachments for it, just takes a bit of aerodynamical magic ;-)

    Occasionally balloons have had mid flight failures resulting in collapse, and some of them have formed into chutes of a sort.

    And no, I don’t devote many cycles to this. Just every now and then when watching things rise into the sky… or as in this case, fall out of it.

    Don’t know which I like more. The serene assent, or the adrenalin rush decent. Decisions decisions…. (which is why it would be cool to have a gizmo that does both ;-)

    FWIW #2: I’ve also pondered a device with minor military use. A “Stairway to Heaven”. Strap it on, hit the trigger WHOOOSH you are at 20 k-Ft. Deploy mini-wings (as above) or parasail and glide away…. 3:1 glide ratio gives you about a 12 mile “escape” radius.

    Would be good for a quick insertion where not expected AND for a quick exit from where not wanted… Just needs a pre-position or an air drop in. So a squad of guys are “stuck” somewhere nasty with bad guys forming up for an assault. Too many RPGs for a helo extraction (with the needed loiter and rope… So just drop in a package of “Stairway to Heaven”, 5 minutes later “WHOOSH” all gone to safety….

    I know. Impractical. Ground pounders are not pilots. But…

    Remember my talking about the 101 st Air Born connection in the family… Those guys, and especially the special forces guys, already know how to fly a body and a chute…

    The “advanced form” would involve a mid-air pickup by a very special aircraft…

    These are the things I think about when I’m not doing money or weather / climate and garden…

    BTW: At one “Air Show” at Moffett, they had a hot air balloon ‘display’ inside Hanger One. It’s big enough for a typical hot air balloon to fly OVER another one. My pilots log book is endorsed as being pilot flying solo INSIDE Hanger One. Not many of those around ;-)

    FWIW #3: I also have a few hours flying gliders. (How Father-n-Law entered France in W.W.II as a liaison officer to the British Air Born glider force… interesting stories, those… So if any W.W.II British guys have stories about some Yank named Sgt. Warren to whom they gave a Sykes-Fairbairn knife; I have it. It helped bring him home more than once… My deepest thanks.) Went all the way to doing “takeoff through landing”. Then they closed the field and moved away so someone could build a bunch more Sillycon Valley urban sprawl….

    Don’t know which I like more. Very different. Though I did really like doing stalls in the glider ;-) At altitude, of course. And the 2 G turns were way cool too. Landings were very exciting as you have no ‘go around’ option and you can’t ‘hang the prop’ if you are short of the end marker. If it were up to me, I’d have EVERY pilot get a glider ticket first, then move to power. Never cared about the engine much after that (when in power planes); just wondered how much altitude was in the altitude fuel tank ;-)

    But my hearing loss probably means I’d not be able to pass a power license physical any more, and the regulatory burden has made it just too damn expensive to keep current. For gliders, it’s a much easier physical as many have no radio at all, so the hearing doesn’t matter; while for balloons, last I looked, you just swore you thought you were healthy enough. Makes sense, since the balloon comes down about the same way controlled or not. Pilot can almost choose where, but mostly just picks when… Not a lot of risk if you start having problems. Just stop pulling the burner cord and wait…

    At any rate, aviation is now a sport for the wealthy, and I’m not wealthy enough to indulge it just right now. So it waits.

    But then I see a bird gliding and start to ponder… what if…

  14. Chuckles says:

    Ah yes, the old ground crew bait – work for the free rides and training, that never quite seems to happen. Very international that is. I’m sure there’s a conspiracy theory in there somewhere?

    I’ve had a commercial pilots licence (lapsed) for balloons for 25+ years, so you hit a nerve there :)
    Had my own balloon for a number of years, and yes definitely a sport of the ‘rich’, similar to yachting and its’ ‘standing fully clothed under a cold shower, tearing up £10 notes’ description, with a change to ‘standing under a 10kW propane heater.’

    When I got my licence, it was identical to the fixed wing private pilots licence, except one did ‘Aerostatics’ instead of ‘Principles of Flight’. Radio courses, medical, all identical. Even used the same textbook – Worthington. Over the years however, many countries have introduced a ‘sport’ licence, with a much reduced medical requirement – like having a detectable pulse, and being able to sign a check…

    The reason the balloons usually stay close to the ground is cos that’s where it is the most interesting (and where most of the variable winds are). 600 ft or more up, and you’re looking at a flat map below. Boring. Also siince the pilot has absolute vertical control to a couple of inches, but not much horizontal, it’s the most fun for the pilot to hedge-hop.

    And I’ve been 13,000+ ft agl for a couple of hours in a maximum distance competition once. Believe me, it’s boring, even with a 360 view. And the descent, tedious doesn’t even begin to describe it.

    ANd yup the early morning flying is very much a ‘thermals’ thing in the warmer parts of the world. In the UK, not so much, as balloons can be seen just about any time of day. More limited by the crap weather than temp.

    Regarding the cloud-hopper, they’re fun, but I prefer a basket thank you. Since most landings are semi-controlled crashes (what the NTSB reports call CFT…) I’d rather have the basket absorbing the impacts in the 20 knot landings.

    I did once have a fellow pilot in a cloudhopper standing on top of the envelope of my ballon, with the two of us going up and down together. It was during a night show in a big stadium, quite fun. The Moffett airshow sounds like a winner tho?

    On ‘rolling your own’ it’s not quite as simple as it looks, but certainly not impossible. Many of the gotchas are regulatory red tape, and usually bypassed by Oshkosh type ‘experimental’ classifications. Nasties are the grade of rip-stop required (quite heavy, and some coated, so not cheap), and the shape of the gores, which is where all the ‘art’ and engineering comes in.
    (Wife says ‘don’t even think about it’ and she should know, she’s helped build (sew) quite a few…)
    Ad astra, per ardua…

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    “Ad astra, per ardua…”

    ‘On your ass, with discomfort’ ;-)

    (I know, ‘to the stars by hard work’ or ‘to the stars going up the steep slope’ )

    I’ve been sewing since I was about 4? Mom made soldiers uniforms during W.W.II in England and made a lot of my clothes. I’ve studied the construction of balloons (mostly while helping to launch them ;-) but sometimes including the formal design issues. Yes, regulation is the killer of all things aviation. Yes, “materials specs” are the biggest place non-engineers (and Chinese manufacturers) go off the rails as they think “Parts is parts”… But you take a minute to think about all the “flying snoopy” and “flying hotdog” and other odd shapes and you realize that a lot of the gore shape is not for safety or design necessity, but for maximum lift from minimum weight with maximum fabric life.

    Frankly, the issue that bothers me the most is the burner design and assuring that you don’t slightly overheat the fabric and weaken it to failure. Either as a single event or from chronic overheat.

    But the odds of my ever doing it are rapidly approaching zero. Too many other things ahead of in the queue, and the clock is running down.

    The simple fact, though, is that every one of those certificated craft started with a design prototype built in a shed or shop. Even the Skunkworks was a small team of folks, and they had to invent whole new processes for handling titanium to make the Blackbird.

    I guess I’ve just had to make enough projects “work” that I’m not put off by the notion that it takes some skill. You either have it, learn it, or hire it. No problem. ;-)

    FWIW, one of the ‘interesting bits’ for a one person balloon would be looking up the strength / weight specs for different fabrics. While I doubt it’s available, I’d expect that a “ripstop kevlar” would cut the weight (while undoubtedly putting the cost through the roof ;-) The work done on ‘fabrics’ for bullet resistant vests is interesting, including spectra (a pre-stretched plastic). I suspect there’s something there that could be ‘leveraged’ into a step beyond nylon. But I’ve not looked up the numbers…

    Ah the joys of engineering….

  16. gnomish says:

    hi from little rock. i did from kingman arizona to here in one shot- @ 1200 miles wrestling a truck against bitterly cold global warming x-winds. last leg of the journey starts tomorrow AM.

    sorry, we’re more than 10 miles north, so without space chair there’s not any kind of view, really. i have the space chair return circuitry designed but not made or tested in the field…
    there just won’t be time to get it ready for the shuttle unless it’s delayed again.

    on the other hand, you’re welcome to visit and advise me on bambusas, etc. wife won’t be down till she gets her bionic hip towards the end of february.

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