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May 13, 2010

Witnesses’ Waltz Time

“Twelve thousand, half million, million and more
Picnicking out on the warm water shore.
Nobody notes that we’re always at hand
To watch all the spaceships that take off and land.”

So says the song by Leslie Fish that I plan to sing along with my friends and fellow space enthusiasts tonight in anticipation of the launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis tomorrow.

Not only are many of my fellow NSS members here (Hi Yohon! Hi Yvonne!), but my fellow members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are holding the annual Nebula Awards activities here at “the Cape” in conjunction with the launch of STS-132. And tonight we gather at the Cocoa Beach Hilton to sing and celebrate with Joe Haldeman who will receive his Grand Master of Science Fiction award at the banquet Saturday night.

If you are in the area after the launch on Friday, please come by the hotel for a group book signing starting around 6 PM. I have free NASA bookmarks for everyone.

I have not seen a launch for more than ten years, and like a lot of space enthusiasts, decided that I just had to experience another before this remarkable flying machine is retired from service.
Launch is scheduled for 2:20 EDT Friday.

The primary mission of the 6-man crew commanded by Ken Ham (called “Hock” for ham hock) is to deliver and install a Russian research and docking module, to install a backup Ku-band antenna system, and to replace six old solar array batteries.

The pilot is Dominic (“Tony”) Antonelli, and the Mission Specialists are Mike (“Bueno”) Good, Steve Bowen, Piers Sellers and Garrett Reisman.

If launch is scrubbed Friday, NASA plans to try again on Saturday.

At the pre-mission crew press conference, I told the crew that a bunch of science fiction writers would be watching the launch, and wondered if any of them had been influenced to go into the space program because of science fiction book or movie. Piers Sellers immediately jumped in with an enthusiastic, “Me!” and proceeded to share how 2001: A Space Odyssey had a “huge influence” on him.

After the camera were off, I asked if he ever read Analog Science Fiction magazine, and he said, “Oh yes, I like Analog!” I told him I had a story in the July/August issue called “Fly Me to the Moon” and he said he’d like a copy. I hope to get a box to share with all my friends (check my Facebook page), and you can bet that a copy will be waiting for Piers when he returns from space!

I’ll be watching, along with tens of thousands of others, as this bittersweet third-to-last shuttle mission launches into space. I was lucky enough to secure a VIP pass, thanks to my husband being a NASA employee, and am looking forward to sharing the launch experience with other members of my NASA “family” from the Banana River site at Kennedy Space Center. I doubt anyone will hear me over the thunder of the launch, but I’ll be singing..

"It’s the loveliest show on this Earth that you’ll see
It’s living and real, not just tape on TV.
So come to Canaveral and bring lots of beer-
When the spaceship takes off, we’ll all stand and cheer.


Politicians ignore us, the media too,
But if they don’t notice, the ships always do.
See her landing so lightly, you’d swear that she cares
That she flies on two wings and a good million prayers.


So come let’s go watch the takeoff today,
While the world’s biggest beach party cheers her away.
We’ll bang the drums proudly and blow on the conch.
Leave a sign on your door that just says, “Out to Launch!”

Marianne Dyson
NSS Advisor/SFWA member

Posted by m_dyson at May 13, 2010 02:19 PM



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