Friday, July 27, 2007

Flying Drunk

The countdown starts: "Ten, nine, eight, seven... go for engine start." Vibrations and a loud roar jolt the cabin as guests feel the main engines firing up. "We have main engine start, two, one..." The "kicker" shakes the cabin as the twin Solid Rocket Boosters ignite. The cabin leans backward as vibration generators engage, causing "crew members" to sink into their seats.

"We have booster ignition and liftoff!" Occupants will shake and rattle as the shuttle "lifts off" and clears the launch pad. The sensations of launch continue as they experience Max Q - the zone where enormous forces squeeze the shuttle - Solid Rocket Booster separation, main engine cut-off and the External Tank separation.

NASA offers tourists a Space Shuttle Launch experience.

Of course, the vast majority of us will never actually experience sitting on top of tons of highly combustible rocket fuel and feel the vibration and jostling as the shuttle slowly lifts free of earth's gravity. We do have the experience of watching them blow up.

So it comes as no surprise to us that an astronaut would fly drunk.

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