Tuesday, May 12, 2009
NASA Accidentally Launches Unmanned Back-Up 'Endeavour' To Hubble Telescope Instead of Intended 'Atlantis.'
Due to the high level of danger inherent in the mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope by the space shuttle Atlantis, the space shuttle Endeavour was also prepped for launch, should a
rescue mission have to be mounted for the crew of the Atlantis. Endeavour stood atop Launch Pad 39B, while about 1.6 miles away, Atlantis rested upon Launch Pad 39A.
Early Monday morning, the 7 astronauts made their way onto Atlantis to prepare for the lift-off of Space Shuttle Mission STS-125. Weather conditions were adequate for launch and the countdown went off without a hitch.
But when the Mission Control clock read "0:00" at 2:01 PM EDT, nothing happened.
Nothing happened at Launch Pad 39A, that is.
Over at Launch Pad 39B, the giant rocket engines rumbled to life and propelled the unmanned rescue ship Endeavour into space, much to the consternation of everyone associated with the mission.
"Greg (Johnson) was looking out his starboard window and saw the flash," said flight commander, Scott Altman. "We all just kind of looked at each other for a second after the countdown was completed, then we heard a far-off rumble, instead of the teeth-chattering, eyeball-popping roar of lift-off."
It soon became apparent to everyone on the scene that someone pushed the wrong launch button--39B, instead of the correct 39A.
"I have to tell you, no one was more surprised than me when Atlantis just sat there and we heard the noise off to our left," admitted Mission Control's Dr. Nancijean von Hycner. a step-niece of rocket pioneer, Dr. Werner von Braun. "Somebody said 'There goes Endeavour' and, sure enough, there it went. Talk about your 'oh, shit' moments....."
"We aren't sure yet if the wrong button was pushed or if there was a mix up in the wiring to the button. Right now, we're still trying to figure out what the hell we're going to do. We've got seven highly-trained astronauts getting paid for sitting on their duffs on Earth and a runaway space craft loose in the cosmos, that's all."
Concluded von Hycner, "We'll think of something; we always do. We can shoot the Atlantis in the next couple days, fix the telescope and pretend like nothing ever happened and then maybe ask the guys on the International Space Station to grab onto Endeavour as it flies by. We'll find some poor low-level technician we can blame all this on and fire him. Given the recent brouhaha with that photo shoot of Air Force One over the Statue of Liberty, I just hope Endeavour doesn't decide to make a pass over Manhattan before we can come up with a plan."