It’s eight in the morning when the Mission Control Center Entry Flight Director polls Mission Control room for a GO/NO-GO.
All systems are normal; it takes them ten minutes to decide, but it’s a GO.
We pass the camera back and forth, arguing about who gets it next and how we talked about this earlier but everyone thinks that how they remember it is how our conversations happened. KC and I converse for a moment about where to put it and if we gray-tape it to the back wall behind our seats, if it’s light enough to stay there once we regain gravity.
I film the plasma, beautiful and bright, through the overhead window. I want to give Willie the camera so he can shoot the plasma from another, probably better angle. “Well, Willie, I guess I could give you the camera to put out the front window.”
Rick cuts in, using both his Texan drawl and his commander-voice to each of their full advantages, “Here, let’s, uh, let’s don’t do that.”
“Let’s just, uh, let’s go ahead and make sure you check your suit pressure integrity, too.”
“Alright.” I do so, fumbling with the camera a getting in another good shot of KC’s face, I’m sure.
“And, um, comm check on intercom,” Rick says. “Put the, uh, visors down. CDR.” CDR is the commander, of course.
“PLT,” Willie retorts. Pilot.
“PS1,” I say, before catching myself. “Aaaah, MS1,” I correct, laughing. I’m a mission specialist, not the payload specialist (that would be Ilan).
“I don’t have my gloves on yet,” KC interjects. She’s so worried about getting the damn gloves on before we hit Gs. “Sorry, MS2.”
“All right, good enough,” the commander says, giving his stamp of approval.
“And we’re gonna leave visors down, though,” I say.
“Oh, no,” Rick replies, realizing that I’ve misunderstood. “I’m just saying check your suit’s pressure.”
“And then I’m just gonna back off.”
“Yeah,” he confirms. “That’s good enough. I’m just gonna check one other thing.”
I tip the camera back to catch the brighter, more orange rays of plasma through the window above me.
“Starting to glow a little bit more now, Laurel,” Willie comments, noticing it the same time I do.
I sigh as I try to find a good angle for the camera.
“Okay, all that’s workin’,” Rick says. Then he adds, “It’s noisy in here, isn’ it?”
“Do you see it over my shoulder now, Laurel?” Willie asks.
“I was filming, it doesn’t show up nearly as much as the back.”
“It’s goin’ pretty good, now,” Willie says, and I can hear the wonder, the smile in his voice. “Ilan, it’s really neat, it’s a bright orange-yellow out over the nose, all around the, uh, the nose.”
Rick chuckles, “Wait ‘til you start seein’ the swirl patterns out your, you know, left…and right windows.”
“Looks like a blast furnace,” Rick adds perceptively. After a moment, he adds, “Let’s see here…look at that.”
“Yep,” Willie replies, “We’re getting’ some Gs. Let go of the card and it falls.”
We sit in silence for a few beats and then Willie speaks again. “This is amazing, it’s really getting, uh, fairly bright out there.”
“Yep,” Rick replies easily. “Yeah, you definitely don’t wanna be outside now.”
“What?” I sass. “Like we did before?”
“How’s it look out the back, Laurel?” Willie asks.
KC is finally pulling her gloves on.
I sort of zone out while Rick and Willie go through their lists of numbers, KC helping out, reading from the booklet Rick handed her earlier. I snap back in when Rick starts talking to Mission Control again.
“Jesus,” Willie murmurs. “It’s getting really hot in here.”
“Feelin’ the heat,” Rick reports to the people down in Houston.
They reply a few seconds later with a mess of static, “...and we did not copy your last.”
“Roger, uh, bu...”