Dr. Jay and I joined this project in 1996. He got a job first, and I
applied to everything under the sun (literally) at the SAO. I knew he
would be working here and my teaching certificate (another post in the
future) was not getting me interviews. I inquired about 10 jobs in
teaching in this area, but nobody was interested. So I tackled this
from the astronomy vantage. There were 5 jobs available that I applied for at SAO and I was called in May for an interview. I had the job in the bag by
the time I was back on Long Island. I actually started 2 weeks before
I have forgotten when the original launch was to take place. The
issues with the Hubble mirrors set us back a few years. In 1996, there
were issues with the connections in my instrument, so we were delayed
just a bit longer. We did a full vacuum test at the X-ray Calibration
Facility (XRCF) at Marshall Space Flight Center. Those were fun days!
I could write and write about those days.
We finally got a launch date of July 20, 1999. For those of you who
know space, this is the day that man first set foot on the moon, 30
years earlier. Very very important! And our mission was the first with
a female commander. This was personally important to me. We got
special launch passes to watch at one of the remote sites. Only the
"special" people could watch at Banana Creek (near the Saturn V building). Like Hillary and Harvey.
I invited my parents to come with us. We got down to Florida all a
flutter! We were going to see a launch! And not just any launch OUR
TELESCOPE’S launch! Based on where we needed to be to get to our final
orbit, we had to launch at night. A night launch is absolutely
We arrived at Cocoa Beach around 5 pm on July 19, 1999. The launch was
to be around midnight or so. We got our festive party hats on and we
smoozed with everyone on the project. The sheer elation going through
the group was like electricity. Some people had been working on this
project for YEARS. As in 20 or more years. We were informed that the
buses were ready. Imagine a large group of scientists acting like giddy
teenagers getting on these white school buses heading to Cape
Canaveral. We all talked about how much work there would be, who had
seen a launch before, what it would be like to watch the main engines
glow and watch the SRB fall to the ocean.
I think we arrived at the launch viewing area by 10pm. It was a
typical summer night in Florida. There were no clouds in the sky. We
enjoyed watching the stars and watching the guards. There were several
guards around us. They all had these amazing shotguns on them. They
were our gator protectors. I felt creepy watching them walk around and
I stayed AWAY from the water.
It was as if there was a carnival. There were booths set up with
T-shirts, people had special cards with our patch on it that you would
get postmarked by the Kennedy Space Center post office on the day of
The waiting was tough, but we got through the T-9 hold and then we
were getting excited!(For a quick review of what happens after the T-9
minute hold, click HERE.)
Then we got to T-30 seconds. Dr. Jay had the shuttle lined up in his
lens. This was so cool! T-20. You could feel the tension in the air!
T-10,T-9,T-8,T-7,T-6…T-6,T-6. Um, what happened?….
The launch stopped here…