Cape Canaveral, FL - NASA has encountered yet a third obstacle to its upcoming launch. First a lightning strike, next a threatening storm. But the latest problem may prove to be the most intractable.
While the lightning strike damage was minimal and the storm may bypass middle Florida, a Shuttle positioned to launch directly into the ground may take a much longer work-around.
Bill Baarker, Director for the Atlantis Project held a press conference today to announce that the craft will have to be "retro fitted to position it in a launch-ready positive configuration." He was disheveled and appeared to have been sleep deprived, but further explained: "As it sits on the launch pad now, we calculate a fault in an effective - positive - mission. We project the October launch date will give us sufficient time to re-position the craft for positive launch."
Baarker tried to wave away reporters' queries about who stood by and simply watched for twelve hours as the Atlantis crept toward the launch pad, to say nothing of the detailed assembly that takes place on the pad itself.
But a reporter for SpaceTime!, a puzzled look on his face, voice urgent, was insistent: "Wouldn't the slow-moving crawler driver notice? I mean, it doesn't have a tarp over it or something, does it?"
Baarker shot back in a flash: "NASA personnel are trained to monitor all phases of the launch. We are a group of professionals. It's not like we just stood there and watched it roll on by, pitched nose down, you know. It's not as if we are amateurs at this, like it's our first launch. May I refer you to our long history of successful missions? Good day to you." He left the reporters with pens poised.
An engineer assigned to the Atlantis was more forthcoming, provided he was assured of anonymity: "Look, all these O' ring, foam flying, tile losing failures have really shaken him. Now we have this really embarrassing, not to say hilarious, upside down craft we don't know how we'll get it righted."
"We're all worried about Baarker. We think he's about to crack. He told us at a meeting a few hours ago that he planned to hint that the lightning strike turned it nose down."