Tradition Tuesday – The Shuttle Launch Tradition by Richard Rogers
Last week we talked about the traditions that Russia has when it comes to launching manned spacecraft, the United States while less symbolic has some traditions that preceded every Space Shuttle launch.
Approximately thirty days before the planned launch the crew would meet with the press for a preflight press conference and one-on-ones with the news media. Before the last major simulation before launch the astronauts would have a cake cutting ceremony with their training team, it symbolized the completion of major training and also was a token of thanks by the flight crew for the training teams hard work during the preceding months of training.
As the launch date draws closer so does the number of stand-alone simulations the crew conducts to brush up on their training, such simulations as ascent and entry and various types of aborts are covered to keep the astronaut’s skills sharp.
Seven days prior to the launch the astronauts entered preflight quarantine at the Johnson Space Center, the quarantine allowed the astronauts to remain isolated from the general public to prevent the possibility of an illness occurring preflight (as happened on Apollo 13), and it allowed the astronauts to adjust their sleep schedules to match the operational requirements of the mission.
Four days before the launch the crew would depart Ellington Field in Houston via a T-38 aircraft and fly to Kennedy Space Center to make final launch preparations.
The days at the Cape are busy with countdown briefings, and proficiency flights in the T-38 and the shuttle training aircraft.
The day before launch the Astronauts hosted their immediate families and close friends at the “Beach House” for a cookout and final goodbyes before the mission. The evening before launch crew gathers for one last time for “The Wave Across the Ditch” as the crew says their final goodbyes prior to launch across a ditch to maintain the preflight quarantine often in the shadow of a shuttle lit up in its pre-launch majesty.
The next day the crew embarks on a trip they have all dreamed of, a trip to space. What traditions will continue, or start with Commercial Crew Missions? We will find out soon as commercial providers start the next era of human exploration of space.