NASA's first test launch of Orion, the craft that may one day carry astronauts to Mars, had to be scrubbed on Thursday morning after a stray boat, high winds and a valve problem on one or more of the liquid-oxygen tanks forced each launch attempt to be pulled.
This was supposed to be a shining hour for NASA -- one of the space agency's biggest moments since the shuttle program ended in 2011 -- but the fates just would not line up. (And whoever was the dude with the boat, we are not your biggest fans right now.) That was kind of a bummer for the thousands of people all over the world who were hoping to see Orion launch over the course of the two and a half hour window, but people made do. While all the NASA people were busy looking serious, space fans were having a fine and hilarious time of it on social media, particularly the Twitter.
Some people just wanted to help out any way they could, like Ed Hochuli's guns:
Ok guys, if you can't get those rockets working tomorrow, give me a call. I'll throw it up there. #OrionLaunch
— Ed Hochuli's Guns (@EdHochulisGuns) December 4, 2014
And some people -- perhaps those who really, really, really wanted to see Orion blast off, soar 3,600 miles away from Earth, make a couple of loops around the planet and then turn around and splash into the Pacific Ocean just off the California coast -- offered tried and true advice:
— Next Launch (@nextlaunch) December 4, 2014
There were those who immediately suspected the Orion engineers were working an angle and trying to get something besides the possibility of an actual forward-moving space program out of the deal:
NASA's Orion Engineers say they will hold off on the #OrionLaunch until Half-Life 3 or the second season of Firefly is released.
— Fake Dispatch (@Fake_Dispatch) December 4, 2014
And then, keeping in mind that this, Exploration Flight Test-1 -- the first of three planned tests designed to figure out if Orion will be deemed safe for astronauts -- alone is $370 million, there were those offering the other time-honored methods of fixing stuff:
— Matty (@_matty_r) December 4, 2014
This guy was just reassuring everybody that it was a software problem (and let's face it, HAL 9000 would know):
Orion will take off providing @NASA manages to finish downloading their updates to Photoshop in time.
— HAL 9000 (@HAL9000_) December 4, 2014
Some of us -- particularly those who had to get up at/stay up until strange dark hours of the night to try and catch this show -- got really into the details of what was going on around Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. We admired the pale blue sky and the sleek, elegant lines of the triple-core Delta IV Heavy Rockets (at 235 feet long, the largest U.S. rockets currently in use.) Those watching the livestream video from either NASA TV or the web listened to the deafening silence (apparently NASA people talk only when they have information to share). We noticed the details, like this really entertaining bird that kept flying around the launch pad:
— Next Launch (@nextlaunch) December 4, 2014
The will-they-or-won't-they-launch dance inspired some to turn to the old forms of wisdom and comfort:
— Scott Sutherland (@ScottWx_TWN) December 4, 2014
And for the first two hours it really seemed, at least to the true believers -- in this parlance, "true believers" are the Charlie Browns who always think Lucy isn't going to yank the football away -- like the launch would still happen today. The third time was like something out of a movie as all the guys in mission control signed off and declared they were go for launch.
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And then three minutes away a voice popped up on NASA TV, and even through that determined, unflappable NASA voice that isn't supposed to show emotion, there was an edge. "Hold hold hold." There was a problem with one or more of the liquid-oxygen valve drains on the Delta IV booster engines. They worked the problem, but the launch-window closed and the launch was scrubbed. Some people got bitter:
Europe is harpooning comets, and NASA can't get a rocket off of the launch pad. #OrionLaunch
— Timothy Beckett (@tbeckett1123) December 4, 2014
However, this wasn't the only shot: NASA still has opportunities to do the launch and finally kick off Orion Friday and Saturday. The launch is currently set to take place tomorrow at 6:05 a.m. CST. We can't do anything about those wind gusts (though maybe certain politicians should speak softly and take gentle breaths throughout the morning), but nobody better even think of boating near Cape Canaveral until the Orion years have officially started.