STS-134 Launch -1: 1500 journalists and more than half a million visitors expected
The alarm clock goes off at 04:45 Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). At 05:30, breakfast. At 06:00, the ESA-DLR media delegation, consisting of a dozen journalists and a number of 'Public Affairs Officers' (as NASA calls them) is on the move. At 08:40, after obtaining additional accreditation at two badging stations, we finally arrive at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press site.
1500 journalists have been accredited for the launch of space shuttle mission STS 134, 53 percent more than for mission STS 133, launched on 24 February 2011. This has been a major challenge for our colleagues at the NASA Office of Communications. In addition to NASA’s own media coverage, including www.nasa.gov, NASA TV and NASA Edge live, much more coverage, including one by attendees of the popular NASA Tweetups will take place. The large number of visitors expected in the area around KSC and Cape Canaveral represents an even greater challenge; unofficial estimates predict the presence of more than half a million people. US President Barack Obama and his family will also attend the launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour.
The day's official programme begins at 09:00 with a detailed and professional demonstration of NASA space suits by two NASA colleagues, including answering questions posed by the assembled journalists. At 10:00, the programme continues with the Countdown Status Briefing; Jeff Spaulding, NASA Test Director, Joe Delai, STS-134 Payload Manager and Kathy Winters, Shuttle Weather Officer, report on the current mission status. In short – everything looks good. Although other parts of the United States are experiencing heavy storms, the weather forecast for tomorrow announces only a 30 percent probability of bad weather, which could mean postponing the launch. While Tennessee and Alabama are affected by severe storms and floods, here at the huge KSC site some small bush fires caused by the high temperatures are being fought. Forecasts say we should expect storms and thunder this evening; we remain excited.
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After a short lunch at the KSC cafeteria with astronaut Stan Love, who – together with Hans Schlegel – delivered the European space laboratory Columbus to the International Space Station, the day continues with a press conference about the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 02. Principal Investigator Samuel Ting clearly explains the operation and main objectives of the antimatter and dark matter detector, and then accepts questions from the journalists.