A Heart Broken.

Forewarning: This will probably be a rather sad/emo/ranty post so if you want to save yourself 5 minutes reading it, I won’t judge you. But for those who want to hear my thoughts, I thank you.

I rolled over a looked at my alarm clock, it stared back at me with it’s dim orange display reading 7:30 indicating I had woken up 30 minutes before the alarm was set to go off. I was pretty awake already by the time I had rolled over but I continued to lay there with my eyes closed enjoying the first night where the temperature in my room was just right. I had packaged up everything the night before so I could make a swift get away in the morning, ensuring that nothing would be left to chance on this fateful day. Today I was to see a space shuttle launch its mighty self into the darkness of space and realise a dream that I had only had for a couple years.

The ground was drenched everywhere with the near constant drizzle that had been coming down since the day before. I was hopeful though since the sky was mostly clear with only a hint of clouds on the horizon. If the launch was going to be cancelled by weather it would have to be a rather sudden occurrence and in my research the night before the KSC Visitor Complex had still stated that the launch was still on for today, bolstering my hopes that everything would be ok. I set about driving out there with the instructions I had taken down off my computer before I left, the excitement started to build with every mile that I got closer to the KSC.

Something didn’t feel right however. In the documentation I had with me from NASA they stated that the entire island would be closed off to anyone who didn’t have a vehicle placard but there were many people right behind me who weren’t displaying theirs. In fact none of them were but I wrote it off, thinking that the blockades would come somewhere further down the line. Then I saw it, the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex with mock ups of all of the kinds of rockets that NASA used for its manned exploration missions. The site was impressive but those uneasy feelings just weren’t going away, I still hadn’t seen any form of a blockade. Then it hit me.

A sign read “Discovery is scheduled to launch Thursday, November 4 3:52PM”.

At first I simply ignored it, thinking that they had just gotten the date wrong. To prove to myself that I wasn’t seeing things I drove past it again, the same fateful message scrolling across the red LED screen. Suddenly I felt an ache spreading across my entire upper body, a pain that came from no where and took away my ability to focus on anything else. I drove back into the parking lot and idly looked at the launch pack I had received from NASA all those months ago. Throwing it aside I drove out of there not wanting to be near the place that had done me any wrong. I drove just up the road and turned around again, going back for no particular reason. After wallowing in this state for a while I resolved myself to finding out why this happened and promptly headed for Cocoa Beach.

I came across a McDonalds long before I hit my destination so I pulled in and hit up their free wifi. The articles I found on the various sites confirmed that it had been delayed due various minor reasons, but enough to have them push the flight back a day. It was no comfort but by this time I had resolved myself to at least see the visitor centre, salvaging what I could from these dim prospects. I headed back over there and put on my best game face, hiding the torment I was feeling from having so many months of planning and time away from my beloved wife to all be for nothing. I got right up to the ticket booth when I froze, I just couldn’t go in there. I was meant to be visiting this place as something special, a part of a larger experience of immersing myself in the reality that is pinnacle of human spaceflight. With that taken away from me all I saw was a tourist trap, a place that would bilk money away from people giving them little in return. I couldn’t stand being near all those people there either, I had to get away.

I found solitude in another McDonald’s back in Orlando. I sat there for a while eating my lunch, drinking the iced tea and trying to console myself with my social networks. It didn’t work, all I could think about was the experience that had been taken from me, the almost 2 weeks I spent by myself here in Florida with only a tenuous connection to those who I really wanted to share it with. Driving around for a while I eventually found a shady place where I could sit down to read and I did so for the next 4 hours, until I was able to check into my hotel for the night.

It took me a while to come to terms with the emotions I was feeling, having not been like this for the better part of a decade. You see for most of my teenage life I was depressed, although I didn’t really figure it was a problem since, as far as I knew, that’s how I always felt. Today being ripped from the heights of elation to those dark depths shocked me in ways I didn’t think were possible anymore. I had thought myself above these emotions, completely able to control myself in any situation that was thrown at me. This proved however that I am in no way capable of that, especially when ramming my rental car into the raised draw bridge seemed like a good idea, in some messed up way that I told myself was logical.

Whilst writing this post has brought some of those emotions back to the surface I simply had to write it. Sure I could’ve made a footnote in an otherwise regular post that I was somewhat disappointed with what happened and glossed over the whole emotional roller-coaster, but that’s not what happened. Today was all about having a dream ripped from you by no means you could have controlled. I weighed up the possibility of ringing my travel agent, rebooking all the shit and trying for just one more day but unfortunately the damage was done. My hail mary was done a couple days ago when I was certain that it would only be delayed one more day. To attempt to reschedule again without the certainty of the launch happening opens myself up to a world of hurt that I’m not quite ready to deal with just yet. It’s the reverse of the beaten wife’s syndrome, I’ve been hit once and I don’t have any inclination to stick around to see if he comes good or if he will just hit me again.

Tomorrow I’ll leave this forsaken place behind me and hopefully I can soon forget this black mark on what had otherwise been a good holiday thus far. I have no idea what’s in store for me in Canada but it wouldn’t have to be much to beat the shit of a day I’ve lived through. For those of you that read this far just let me say thank you once again. You’re the people I enjoy writing to since you’re more than just a pageview, you actually care about what I have to say.

9 Comments

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  1. Sucks dude. You should just decry all knowledge of space and lead a cult that turns its back on the sky and ends up like mole people deep in the earth engineering stuff.

    There’s always next year, or if you wait till 2012, i’ll come join you for a launch 🙂

  2. Yeah I’ve got my sights set on next year now. This was supposed to be the glorious end to my solo tour of the southern state, but it still felt like my whole point of being here.

    I could swing another day but after today it’s risky, both emotionally and fiscally. There’s a good chance that it will get scrubbed tomorrow, and after that there’s no telling if there’s anything else that could get it ditched. They were extremely confident that they would launch every other day that it was planned to go ahead and every day it was delayed. If I knew back when I was planning this trip what I knew now I would’ve gone to Canada with Rebecca then flown down here from the 1st to the 7th of November (the launch window wasn’t made public until after I had booked everything, go figure). Honesty though Orlando is doing my head in, I don’t really want to spend another day here especially if it has to be either on tenterhooks waiting for confirmation of a launch go or trying to find something to do in this boring ass town (and no I’m not really a big fan of amusement parks, not by myself anyway).

    Moving this back one day cost me $358, only $150 of which was the flight change. To change it will cost me at least $200 each day and after sinking so much already into this caper I’m not willing to throw anymore cash at it. There’s all the chance in the world that it will launch tomorrow but frankly I couldn’t give a shit anymore. If I’m going to plan to see this again I’m going to plan around the fact that it will get fucked around like it did this week, rather than hoping that it all goes smoothly like it did for the last 5 shuttle flights.

  3. sounds like a logistical nightmare, but i imagine logistical problems go hand in hand with trying to organise a space flight.

    Its a shame man, still.. if you’re basing decision on money alone my (frankly, irresponsible..) advice: load up the credit card and work that out later.

  4. They do but, like the space shuttle, they’re not above being solved. Still there’s an element of cost (not just monetary) vs benefit going on here and my current estimations have the shuttle launch not happening in the currently specified launch window. I.E. it will launch sometime in December and that means the cost of attempting to stay here now (whatever that might be) is not worth it since it will not yield any benefit. It’s just throwing good money after bad.

    Money is really not an issue. I don’t think it’s any secret that I’m incredibly well off for someone of my age and could easily afford the extra time over here, but that’s not the point anymore. I had a lot of emotional investment in seeing the launch yesterday and that’s now all gone. The only way I’d be willing to risk it is if I had some control over the factors that are affecting Discovery’s ability to launch. Since I can’t have such control then it’s completely out of my hands, and inherently risky.

    I can understand you’re just trying to help Chris and, despite this sounding like me being a total dick, I really appreciate it. I’ve just gotten to that point where I can’t deal with this right now and I have to let it go. It doesn’t help that Orlando is more oriented to families than middle aged 20 year olds looking for fun, otherwise I might be more inclined to find out more about this city.

  5. Sorry to hear about this Dave, I know how much you were looking forward to it but it happens – especially with something as big as a space shuttle launch! I’m sure you’ll get back over there soon and see a launch, and then you’ll look back on this as just another journey in your adventure 😉 (Yes I just realised how corny that sounded :P)

    Remember you’re awesome and enjoy the rest of the time you have over there in NA 🙂

  6. Got it in one Dan 😀 The following 24 hours have been such a blast that the dark memories of yesterday have been long forgotten. It’s definitely been a learning experience, even if it only applies to this rather esoteric area of space travel.

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