The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on October 30, 1998 · Page 10
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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 10

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West Palm Beach, Florida
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Friday, October 30, 1998
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Page 10
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IOA THE PALM BEACH POST FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 1998 S ft C Glenn returns to space Pilgrims come from near, far for Discovery's launch ,C ' ?', t . i.i Ur-kr - ''if . .,..,. a......,,i-,,F, ,. , .-..1 By Eliot Weinberg Palm Beach Post Staff Writer CAPE CANAVERAL Although the spaceship poised to carry John Glenn into space for the second time in 36 years was but a hazy image 15 miles up the Banana River, it drew a ragged population of admirers to the Bennett Memorial Causeway. Like Hansel Roten, who watched from his canary yellow recliner. "Last night, my wife told me to take it to the junkyard," the 64-year-old retired tree surgeon from North Wilkesboro, N.C. said. Instead, he tossed it in his pickup and brought it out. "I fall it the John Glenn chair," he drawled, "and I'm asking $1,200. Want to put a bid on it?" In a light heat, broken by cool breezes, the thousands waited for Discovery to climb into a cloudless sky that was gun-gray against the waterway, then melted into Columbia blue. Jack Kinney was there, 100 feet from where he'd watched Glenn take off in 1962. That had been with his first wife. The Mercury rocket was a lot smaller and not half as loud, and the program's early failures had everyone a lot more nervous then. "Everyone was saying, 'Go, go, go,'" Kinney recalled. People came from Stuart and Clearwater and Plant City; Arkansas and Iowa and Massachusetts; Holland and England. And, of course, from Ohio. "They promoted him too much," said Frances McDowell, from near Lima, Ohio. "The other ones (on the crew) should get their attention." She might as well have been talking into the roar of the shuttle's engines. E.J. Watson had come down four times before from his Indiana farm across from Louisville, Ky., only to go home disappointed when each launch was scrubbed. Lane Lanhum and his dog Foxy had left his lake 170 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska 2V6 weeks ago in his motor home. He'd gone to Los Angeles and turned left. Stephan Hambsch had driven his 1971 Volkswagen van from Lake Tahoe to Vancouver to the Midwest en route, eventually, to college in New York. Bare-chested and barefoot, in tousled hair and scraggly chin growth, with black shades and an open brew at 1 1 a.m., he had the look of a young man with the luxury of somewhere to go, just not right away. "You can see so many mountains and pretty countryside," he mused. "You only get to see one space shuttle." There were bikers and soccer moms; people sitting in wheelchairs or sipping ice tea atop their recreational vehicles. A family from Michigan pulled the bench seats from their minivan. Some people came at the last minute. Some pitched tents Wednesday night and tried to listen more to the lapping waves than the passing traffic. Geraldine Eastland and her son John left Americus, Ga., at 2 a.m. and drove six hours straight through. "The closer we got, the more excited I got," the 68-year-old widow said. Her son had taken shoe polish and written "Go John Go" on the back glass. "Now, he meant John Glenn," said Geraldine, as if to make sure which "John" she was talking about. People slathered themselves with sunscreen, sucked on bottled water, spoon-fed their kids cereal or laid them down, exhausted, to sleep on blankets or in the backs of cars. Some popped Tupperware full of potato salad and played bridge. Some searched frantically for portable toilets; there were none. ALLEN EYESTONESta.ff Photographer Quinton Cant, 8, from Pennsylvania (with flag) and Will Crock, 9, from Iowa (with binoculars) watch the launch from Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville. Si ; f ing the water and oohed at a team of skywriting planes that spelled "Godspeed John Glenn and crew." Hawkers sold T-shirts, lemonade and boiled peanuts. One car was draped with, "Go Glenn and crew. Good luckGod Bless. Sasage(sic), hot dogs. $1." Another car read, "Jail to the chief," but President Clinton got no closer than when Air Force One floated over the crowd. Along U.S. 1, near Titusville, Ashley Bell, 7, of Orlando was asked about nine days in space or one day at Walt Disney World. She threw her mother an exasperated look and answered, "Disney World." But when Discovery soared high above and sound waves shook the ground she jumped from her lawn chair, wearing a smile as wide as the Indian River. On the Bennett Causeway, the crowd grew restless when the launch was delayed. They counted down with the radios and televisions. They whooped when they saw a thick stack of flame, then a shiny jewel trailing a twisted white tail. Then they raced for their cars to beat the traffic jam; to get home and tell their families all about it. I IT 1 i T- r J PAUL J. MILETTEStaff Photographer Discovery begins its nine-day flight Thursday. The ments. They'll also release a sun-gazing satellite crew of seven will conduct 83 scientific experi- and a small Navy communications satellite. They squealed with delight at a dolphin break- Staff writer Paul Reid contributed to this story. Clinton: 'Great day for America, senior citizens' I ' ' - f NASA Internet site swamped during launch By Joel Engelhardt Falm Beach Bost Staff Writer NASA put its high-powered Internet site on trial Thursday with the launch of John Glenn offering the system its first test. Despite the ability to handle 120 million information requests in a day, some users found they couldn't get in to view live video of the launch. While numbers from Thursday weren't available, use of the site (www.shuttle. nasa.gov) quadrupled this week, said National Aeronautics and Space Administration Internet service manager Brian Dunbar. The heavy traffic didn't help customers in West Palm Beach who lost their Comcast cable around 1:30 p.m., just 30 minutes before Glenn was scheduled to lift off. Comcast workers restored service to about 2,000 homes just in time for viewers to watch a 20-minute delay preceding the launch. Customers lost their cable when a power failure caused a surge of electricity and destroyed an electrical component on one of the company's lines. The failure hit customers east of Interstate 95 between Okeechobee and Forest Hill boulevards in West Palm Beach, Comcast General Manager Michel Champagne said. Palm Beach Interactive at www.GoPBI.com, a sister company of The Palm Beach Post, credited the Glenn launch with a 15 percent traffic surge for the week. Launch day figures weren't available sion Control barked from the metal loudspeakers, "John Glenn is in orbit for the second time in his life." But soon after liftoff, NASA officials saw on video replay that a small metal panel dropped off the tail end of the shuttle just as engines fired. Engineers believe it was the door that covers the shuttle's drag parachute, used for landing. Engineers said the exposed parachute, still packed in its well at the base of the tail, should cause no problems upon reentry. "It is no hazard to the vehicle in orbit," said Donald R. Mc-Monagle, manager of launch integration for the shuttle. "Our preliminary analysis is, we're OK." Engineers are planning to meet this morning to decide whether any action should be taken to address the situation. The technical glitch was reminiscent of Glenn's first spaceflight. When Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, his reentry became a moment of intense drama when a faulty switch sent a false signal that the capsule heat shield had slipped loose. The problem with the shuttle's small door, luckily, is not the equivalent of the Mercury capsule's crucial heat shield. But all in all it was a triumphant day for NASA and all the folks rooting for John Glenn. "It was a bit more emotional than I expected," said Jack Sparks, Glenn's Senate spokesman. "You're excited, you're scared, but you're also proud." And if you're John Glenn, you're almost unbearably happy. "I don't know what happens on down the line, but today is beautiful and great, and Hawaii is, I just can't even describe iL" Information from The Associated fress supplemented tltis story. LAUNCH From 1A the public attention, as the extraordinary business it is. "America is very, very proud of you today," Clinton told NASA engineers at the launch control center, where he watched the launch with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The first president to witness a shuttle liftoff, Clinton pronounced the flight "a great day for America and a great day for our senior citizens." The Discovery is loaded with six other astronauts and 83 science experiments, including several that will focus on Glenn and the way his 77-year-old body reacts to space. Glenn has fought a public relations battle throughout his eight-month training to draw attention to the science, but he lost that battle again on launch day. It was the obvious history being made the thrill of a space hero from another era returning to the realm that made him an international figure that energized the day and the people who watched. Glenn's wife, Annie, watched the liftoff from the roof of the massive vehicle assembly building about 3 miles from the pad, and a spokesman said she thought it was "wonderful" to watch. She was joined by daughter Lyn, 51. and son David, 53, who also brought his wife and two teenage sons. The biggest crowds were miles away from the Glenns and ' other MPs. but the excitement in the air was tremendous. For days it had been clear that launch conditions would be perfect, building anticipation for the moment when Glenn again would leave the Karth for space. Then twice in the closing minutes, the countdown clock froze. First for a minor technical THE ASSOCIATED PRESSNASA Discovery pilot Steven W. Lindsey playfully reaches for Glenn's name tag during a flight crew equipment check prior to the launch. See video of the launch, photos, ft LV the latest news and links to offi cial NASA sites at Palm Beach Interactive: www.GoPGI.com minute after leaving the pad, drew grateful applause and nearly involuntary calls of excitement from jaded reporters and awestruck visitors alike. "C'mon! Go! Go!" people yelled. "I was surprised, I couldn't keep quiet," said Andrew Chaikin, author of the book A Man on the Moon, which is a detailed recount of the Apollo program. "I tried, but I didn'L" And the excitement on the ground was at least equaled above the Earth in Discovery. "We're just going by Hawaii and that is absolutely gorgeous," Glenn told Mission Control. "Roger that." Mission Control responded. "Glad you are enjoying the show." "Enjoying the show is right," Glenn said, "Boy. this is beauti- ful." Then, flight commander Curt Brown piped up: "Let the record show that John has a smiling face and it goes from one ear to the other one, and we haven't been able to remove it yet." The crew suited up about 10 a.m. in a room decorated with signs taped above the seats of each astronaut, except Glenn. The signs celebrated the "Curt Brown Parkway," or "Steve I jndsey Parkway," in an obvious attempt to needle Glenn, for whom a section of NASA Road 1 in Houston was temporarily renamed the "John Glenn Parkway." By 11:40 a.m. Glenn was on the gantry platform 195 feet in the air. at the entrance to the shuttle itself. And then at 2:29 p.m.. Mis hiccup, then with five minutes to go. liftoff was delayed for about 15 minutes when two private planes, apparently jockeying for better viewing position, crossed into controlled air space. "We had a little exercise there at the end," said Ralph Ixe, launch director, "by a couple of nuisance problems, really, that made us sweat a little bit." But the sight of the shuttle riding a thick stream of fire, trave ling at 1.715 mph just a I (

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