|Monday August 3, 1998
August 7, 1998
an email today from my friend Sumio Morioka. Sumio lives in
Japan and is someone with whom I became acquainted with through our
interest in space exploration.
Sumio invited me to participate in covering the launch of John Glenn on
in October as a correspondent for a Japanese computer magazine.
Seeing this launch in person from the press site is something that I
really like to do. Leading up to this flight, it is also
something that I
did not think would be possible. John Glenn's second launch has
tremendous interest by the new media. I assumed that it would be
impossible to obtain press credentials with this media circus.
It did not
take long for me to respond to
Sumio and let him know that I would
like to be included as part of his press contingent. Sumio said
would handle the request for the press passes. My job is to find
This unexpected opportunity has also opened up a window for a vacation
for my wife
Mary and my granddaughter Lexie. Lexie is three and one
old now. She has become fascinated by the wonderful world of
If Lexie finds a penny or a dime on the street, she will say that she
to put it in her piggy bank so that she can go to Disney World. A
Disney in October 1998 might just be what the doctor ordered. In
it will be the one-year anniversary from when my father passed
vacation will be a welcome distraction from that anniversary.
received a copy of the fax that Sumio sent to the KSC Press Office
requesting credentials for us. I really am indebted to Sumio for
doing this. It is such a relief for me to not have to deal with
making the request.
Now, the big question will be to find out if we are approved.
Evidence of the crush of news media expected to attend this launch is
that NASA has set a deadline of August 14, for requests to be made to
cover the October 29th launch.
In the past it was possible to submit a request within one week of the
launch and still get approved. Time will tell if we make it.
Even Walter Cronkite is coming out of retirement for this launch.
He is going to be a correspondent for CNN.
August 17, 1998
The STS-95 trip is GO. The NASA Public Affairs Office has
acknowledged that they have received our accreditation request. They
have also said that every thing appears to be in order. All that
is needed now, is an on time liftoff.
The travel arrangements have been made. The launch is scheduled
for Thursday afternoon, so I will fly in on Wednesday. Mary and
Lexie will be flying into Orlando on Friday evening so that we can
spend four days at Disney World.
Disney World, we are going to stay on property at the Grand
Floridian Hotel. It is a Victorian era styled hotel and is
supposed to be one of the best at Disney. Since the Disney
monorail services the hotel, it will be very convenient for returning
back to the room, if Lexie should get tired during the day.
October 26, 1998
The trip to Orlando for the launch of STS-95 is rapidly
approaching. I am scheduled to leave on Wednesday.
On a very sad note, Mary's maternal grandmother passed away and
her funeral is tomorrow Tuesday, October 27th. We will be driving
out to west Texas for the funeral. Tuesday evening I have a class
in advanced operating systems and a programming project is due in that.
Once we get back from the funeral I will have to work on the program
until probably at least midnight or later.
I still have not had time to pack for Orlando. It is shaping up
to be a very hectic trip.
October 26, 1998
funeral for Mary's grandmother actually went better than I had
expected. Mary had been estranged from her grandmother for nearly
21 years. Based upon that I was not sure how the reception would
be by Mary's grandfather. I had never met Mr. Murphy, so I was
As it turned out, the reunion of Mary with
her grandfather was
wonderful. Mr. Murphy welcomed me to the family with open arms.
It was very touching.
Tuesday night I had my advanced operating systems class. I had
not been pleased with the instructor for this class. I have not had
enough time to complete the programming project. In light of those
issues, I have chosen to withdraw from the class, and retake it another
That decision at least has freed me up to pack for the trip to
Orlando. My plan is to travel with two large suitcases.
These suitcases should hold all of Mary's and
items as well as my own. By doing that it would be an easier trip
for Mary traveling with a three year old later in the week.
I started becoming very apprehensive about the crowd that would be
coming to the Space Coast for the launch. I had read stories that
there were 4,000 press credentials being issued for this launch.
With number of people I believed that attending the crew walkout was
out of the question. I still however wanted to do the Rotating
Service Structure rollback photo opportunity if there was one.
The photo opportunity was scheduled for 8:00 PM on Wednesday and my
flight was scheduled to arrive in Orlando at 12:41 PM. I began to
wonder if even that would be enough time to get over to the KSC Press
Due to this apprehension, I have decided
to attempt to fly standby to
Orlando. That way, I can try to get on the first flight out
of the airport in the morning. The first flight is at 6:30 AM,
which of course means waking up at around 4:30 AM.
October 26, 1998
Getting to the airport at this time of the morning proved to be very
easy. There were no problems with traffic at all. Getting
on to the flight as a standby passenger also was not difficult.
By taking this early flight I would get to Orlando at 10:00 AM and save
myself nearly three hours.
The flight was uneventful. Several
people on the flight were
going to Florida in order to view the launch. Collecting my
luggage at baggage claim was the next major hurdle. I was very
concerned about how I would maneuver two large suitcases along with two
separate camera bags. It turned out that close to the luggage
conveyors, there were luggage cars that you could rent for $2.
That was definitely the best $2 that I had spent in a long time.
A bigger challenge was getting the luggage onto the bus that took me to
the off airport car rental location. That was not easy, but I did
manage to get it all on. The bus was packed with people.
Once I got to the rental car site, I found out that the car rental
lounge was also packed with people. There was a queue of people
so long that it took me 45 minutes before I finally got to the rental
counter. The biggest problem with this mass of humanity was that
I had to abandon my luggage in the customer seating area. I had visions
of returning to find both of my suitcases gone, but I had little choice
in the matter. There was no way to drag my luggage through the
I finally got through the queue and got my rental car arranged. I
went back to the seating area to collect my luggage and thankfully it
was still there. I am firmly convinced that the reason that
thieves did not cart off my luggage is that it was too heavy for them
The car to which I was assigned was located in the Timbuktu
the parking lot. I had to wait for an employee of Alamo that was
none too friendly to haul my bags and me over to the car.
All the time that I was at this rental agency I felt the clock ticking
down. I couldn't wait until I was at the KSC badging office to
presumably wait in another queue for my credentials.
Public Affairs Personnel had set up a remote parking site for
the press. This remote site would be utilized if the demand
became too great for parking at the press center itself. As I
drove by this remote parking site I noted that there were no vehicles
there, other than the shuttle bus. That indicated to me that I
would still be able to drive directly to the press center once that I
had picked up my credentials at the badging office.
The rental car to which I was assigned was a total pig. It looked
as if someone had used it for a fraternity party and I wasn't
invited. They didn't even clean the cigarette ashes out of my
non-smoking car. I would have gone back to the rental lounge to
complain, but there was no way I was wading through that mass of
humanity again. I accepted the car and accepted the fact that I
would never ever rent with Alamo Rental Cars again.
With the hassle of renting a car behind me, I headed out on the Beeline
Expressway towards KSC. I approached KSC from the west and the
first thing I noticed about this launch was that security was
significantly tighter than it had been for STS-84.
At the main entrance to KSC, security
guards were stopping all
cars. The guards would look around at the inside of your car to
make sure that there was nothing suspicious in there. The guard
told me that the visitor's center was a couple of miles down the
road. I explained to the guard that my destination was not the
visitor's center but rather the KSC badging office so that I could pick
up my press credentials.
The guard asked me if I knew where the office was. With this
being my second mission, I was a veteran press correspondent. I
casually rattled off the directions to the office. With that I
was given the go ahead by the guard to proceed.
Once I arrived at the badging office, I was shocked to find that it was
not very crowded at all. Either I was late, or else the crush of news
media personnel had not yet arrived in Florida. There were about
5 people in the office picking up their badges when I got there.
About another 5 people showed up before I left.
I filled out the request form and handed it with my photo ID to the
lady behind the counter. Before long I had in my possession my
STS-95 chartreuse press credential with my name on it. It was a big
relief to me to actually receive the badge. I always have the
fear that some bureaucratic mix up will arise and shut me out from the
With my credentials, I could now drive up to the press site
itself. There was a security checkpoint that I had to go through
right by the badging building. With credentials in hand, this was
a more routine stop. I drove up Highway 3 towards the VAB and the
Launch Control Complex where the press center was.
Another security checkpoint was located
about mid way up Highway
3. This is the normal checkpoint for entering the area of the
Launch Control Complex. It was another routine stop for me.
At the press site at the Launch Control Complex, I noticed that an
overflow parking lot had been created over near the VAB. This
extra lot was setup to handle the large number of news media that they
expected for the coverage of this launch.
To my surprise I had to once again stop and show my badge
and photo ID
before I was even allowed access to the parking lot. That was
another indication to me that the security level was significantly
higher for this mission than it was for the last mission that I had
At the press site it was not long before I met up with my friend Sumio
and his friends from Japan. Everyone was excited, as we
anticipated the launch of an American Hero. My Japanese friends
had an additional reason to be excited. Chiaki Mukai, a Japanese
astronaut, would also be flying on this mission. For my
Japanese friends, that may have been even more exciting than John Glenn.
We checked in at the Public Affairs Office and we were set for
the 8:00 PM photo opportunity to photograph the shuttle on the launch
pad. This would not be a roll back of the RSS, but rather a
sunset event. The location from which we would photograph the
launch pad would have the sunset as a backdrop.
The time approached for us to head over to the parking lot to prepare
to board the buses for the photo opportunity. There was a huge
throng of photographers and there were several buses lined up.
Before we were allowed to board the buses, we were instructed to line
up in front of them. We were told to place our bags three feet in
front of us and then step back. We then waited as a security
person toting a machine gun walked along the line of our bags with a
police dog. This dog was obviously trained to detect explosives.
It is a strange feeling to be standing in a
line with security guards
looking you over as they carry machine guns. You hope that the
dog has a keen sense of smell that day and isn't suffering from the
same allergies that you are.
After the inspection was complete we were told to get on a bus.
We were also told that once we got on a bus we had to stay on the
bus. If we got off for any reason we would not be allowed to get
back on the bus.
I had wished that I had brought my camera tripod with me, but there was
no way that I was going to go to the car to retrieve it at this
point. One arrogant journalist did get off of the bus. Much
to my surprise, he was allowed back on without any hassle. It took a
while for all of the buses to get loaded so we remained parked there
for some time.
We then drove towards the launch
pads. STS-95 would be launching
from pad 39-B. This would be the first time for me to see a
vehicle on this launch pad.
When we got over to the spot for our photo opportunity, the bus driver
recommended that we put on mosquito repellent. He said that the
mosquitoes could get really bad here at sundown. Of course I had not
thought about that and was unprepared. The bus driver
however was kind enough to let me put on some of his mosquito repellent.
The view of Discovery on the launch pad was spectacular. With the
sun going down, this view was worth the trip even if the shuttle did
not launch tomorrow. The Xenon searchlights highlighted the shuttle on
the pad while other features in the area faded to silhouette.
snapped photo after photo of the sunset. Some of the
photographers finally gave up and headed back on to the bus. No doubt
they surrendered to the flocks of mosquitoes.
tourist himself, Wolf carried a small personnel camera. A very nice
looking blonde woman accompanied Wolf. With Wolf’s reputation for
partying, I think she was getting a better tour than we were.
It became darker and darker. Finally, I realized that it was
futile for me to take more photos without a tripod. The lighting
conditions required too long of an exposure. I also
retreated to the comfort of the air-conditioned bus.
The bus took us back to the press
site. From there we left to go
check into our motel rooms. The rooms that I had reserved were straight
south on Highway 3. After a late dinner, we retired for the
Thursday morning we got up early to be the rush of news media heading
out to the press site. Once again we were able to avoid parking in the
remote parking site.
The atmosphere at the press site was unlike anything I had seen
before. This time it took on more of the feel of a county fair.
Tents were set up all over the press site grounds and people were
everywhere. Celebrities and astronauts were milling about with
the reporters. The only thing missing from this carnival was a
Ferris wheel and people hawking cotton candy and smoked turkey legs.
I noticed an interview tent set up where astronauts Janice Voss and
Julie Payete were being interviewed. They were wearing their blue
flight coveralls. Also in his blue flight coveralls Astronaut
Dave Wolf walked by.
In order to rest our legs, Sumio, his friends, and I took a seat in the
press grandstand. While we were seated there, I noticed the second man
to walk on the Moon, Buzz Aldrin, stroll by.
As the launch time approached, Sumio and his friend headed over to a
viewing spot next to the water in front of the flags at the press
site. I chose to view the launch from a location near the water
and about 100 feet to the left of the countdown clock.
It seemed like everyone who was anyone was there. Even singer
Jimmy Buffet was roaming around the press site covering the launch
for God knows what margarita bar.
It was time for the crew walkout, but I chose not to even attempt to
attend it. I assumed that there was no way that I would muscle my
way into that with all of these professional reporters in
attendance. Later I found out from my friend Sumio that he
actually did attend the walkout. He said that all you had to do
was show up in the parking lot and get on a bus. Oh well, the
carnival at the press site may have been more interesting anyway.
I noticed a huge throng of press over by
the grandstand congregated
around someone. Surely this must be some well-respected
astronaut. I headed over to the throng to see what the interest
was. When I got there, I realized it wasn't an astronaut at
Rather it was former baseball star Ted Williams. Williams had
flown fighter jets with John Glenn in Korea and that is why he was
attending the launch. I tried to get a photograph of Williams,
but with the throng of people I only got a picture of his head.
That was an ironic photo, considering that after Mr. Williams passed
away, his head became an item of contention between the members of his
Disappointed that it was only a sports legend and not someone more
appropriate like Neil Armstrong, I returned to my viewing location next
to the water. I noticed that a photographer who had set up
shop next to me had an array of cameras. He mounted these cameras
on a custom tripod. With one click he could fire off several
cameras with auto winders to record the launch. With my solitary
Canon-A1 and a video camera, I felt woefully inadequate.
There was more evidence of the extreme
security measures in
place. A NASA Huey helicopter was flying overhead. The side
doors on this helicopter were open and standing in these doors were
security personnel with helmets and M-16 rifles. On the roof of
the VAB there were snipers. Yes, this launch had a lot of
Another security issue associated with this launch was that President
Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary would be attending. I saw a
very long motorcade of black sports utility vehicles, and black cars
drive towards the Launch Control Center. This was the entourage
for President Clinton.
Clinton’s would be watching the launch with Astronaut Eileen Collins
from the roof of the Launch Control Center. The
Clinton's, after all, had a vested interest in this launch.
Without Bill Clinton's intervention, it is unlikely that NASA would
have ever flown John Glenn again. Yes, Senator Glenn was about to
receive the ultimate political pay back.
I turned around and looked back at the mass
of press congregated for
the launch. It was unbelievable. KSC had not seen the likes
of this since July of 1969.
The clock counted down and a flicker of flame was seen down below the
space shuttle Discovery. Huge white clouds of steam began
billowing up and out from the sides of the launch pad. It was
obvious that the water sound suppression system was doing its job.
When the shuttle main engines came up to the required thrust
solid rocket boosters were ignited. John Glenn was returning to space
36 years after his first flight. As a sentimental gesture,
NASA had Scott Carpenter make the call of the launch. Carpenter,
after all, was the astronaut who called Glenn's original launch in
This was my fourth shuttle launch to witness and it was
spectacular. Each and every launch was different for me as
lighting conditions have a great impact on the view. Night
launches are special but so are launches in the bright afternoon
sun. The view of the cloud left behind by the SRBs in the
sunlight is awe inspiring in its own right.
As always the launch is over and done with much too quickly once those
SRBs are lit. All one could do now was revel in the
excitement. I rejoined my Japanese friends and we had our
pictures taken with the empty launch pad in the background.
We attended the post launch briefing in the
press center briefing
room. I was surprised that we were able to get in there.
Apparently the intense interest by the news media was already
waning. The big story was the launch itself and not the
The post launch briefing was pretty interesting. In one of the
close up camera views of liftoff, a cover was seeing falling away from
Discovery as it rose from the launch pad. This cover was
identified to be the cover that protected the parachute mechanism on
the back of the vehicle.
Was this a serious situation? The members of the press probed and
probed, but the officials from NASA did not seem too concerned.
The crowd dwindled away from the press
site. The carnival was
over. The tents started coming down. Surely by now Jimmy
Buffet was already drifting away in Margarita Ville.
We left the press site and headed down Highway 3 towards our
motel. We experienced no unusual traffic driving in that
direction. In fact it didn't take us any longer to reach
our motel after the launch than it did the day before.
I turned the television on in my motel and the coverage showed a
tremendous traffic jam heading west from KSC. We were very
fortunate that our destination was south instead of west. Two
hours after the launch, the traffic going west was still at a
Sumio, his friends, and I decided to go out to dinner together
tonight. We drove towards Cocoa Beach in search of a
restaurant. Nothing that we passed looked all that
exciting. We finally passed through the entire business district
of Cocoa Beach and decided to turn around.
As we headed north, there appeared to be an interesting restaurant on
the left side of the road. It was called "The Mango Tree".
I suggested to Sumio that we try out this place. We parked and
headed into the restaurant. It was a very upscale place and it
would have been better if we had reservations. They offered to
accommodate us at the bar if we wanted to eat there. That was
fine with us; we were still awash in the after glow from the launch.
The Mango Tree, in my opinion is the finest dining available in Cocoa
Beach. The food is great and the atmosphere is fabulous.
were sitting at the bar, we had a good view of the patrons as they
walked in the door. I was stunned to see Buzz
Aldrin and his wife enter this establishment.
his wife were stood no more than 8 feet away from us as they waited for
their table. I pointed out Aldrin to Sumio and his friends.
They were shocked that a man who walked on the Moon was standing there
while he waited for a table.
This was a
fitting nightcap after a perfect day where we witnessed John Glenn’s
return to space.
October 30, 1998
I picked up Mary and Lexie at the airport. Mary had thought that
Lexie would go to sleep with the early flight. Much
to Mary's surprise, 3-year-old Lexie talked her ear off for the whole
Tonight, Mary, Lexie, and I went to dinner with Sumio and his
friends. We decided to go to Rusty's at Port Canaveral that has
become a favorite hangout of Mary and me.
After dinner we got back to the motel and Sumio was in a panic.
He had forgotten his bag containing his money and passport at the
restaurant. I had Mary call to ask the restaurant to hold the bag
and I drove Sumio back over to the restaurant. Everything of
Sumio's was still intact and he was very relieved to retrieve his items.
We said good-bye to Sumio and his friends. Mary, Lexie, and I
would head to Disney World, the next day.
October 31, 1998
Mary, Lexie, and I checked in to the Grand Floridian
a fabulous hotel this was. It was the ultimate in luxury.
Since tonight was Halloween, we took Lexie trick or treating at
Downtown Disney. We could not let this vacation get in the way of trick
Lexie is a big fan of the Wizard of
Oz. In fact, when people ask
her who she is, she will tell them that she is Dorothy Gale from
Kansas. It should be no surprise that Lexie was going to be
Dorothy Gale for Halloween. Lexie dressed in a
blue-checkered dress, ruby slippers, and dark pigtails. She
carried a small basket with Toto.
Mary and I have also been awarded parts in the Land of Oz by
Lexie. Lexie calls me her friend the scarecrow and she calls
Mary, the cowardly lion. Not wanting to be left out on the fun of
Halloween, Mary and I also dressed up in costume. I was the
scarecrow and Mary as the Lion. Our outfits were complete even down to
the point of painting our faces.
We rode the bus over to Downtown Disney and trick or treated
there. For the most part the stores only gave out stickers.
That was a little disappointing with all of the hype
Disney placed on this event. We ended up and purchased some candy
for Lexie at the candy shop. No doubt, this was the
evil plan of Michael Eisner all along.
It was getting late and we took the bus back to our hotel. With
our costumes on, we walked through the Grand Floridian Hotel towards
our room. As we passed one of the restaurants the Disney workers gave
us a standing ovation.