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September 2004
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Darkflash: 3… 2… 1…

Another in the series of posts of things that would have been blog posts if I’d had a blog during the months the blog was dark.

The following was emailed to friends and family August 3, 2004 06:59:16 UTC.

So I woke up about 06:05 UTC and realized that I was awake in time for the scheduled 06:15:56 UTC launch of the Messenger spacecraft to Mercury. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to see anything at all from home, so I didn’t wake up Brandy or Amy. But I put on NASA TV… well, OK, it was already on, I’d put it on several hours earlier before I went to sleep… I had hoped to stay awake for it, but had fallen asleep. I hadn’t set an alarm or anything, but woke up just in the nick of time. NASA TV was annoying me because they were covering something happening on the space station instead… docking with a supply ship or some such… but they did mention that Messenger was a go and should be launching in just under 5 minutes.

So a minute before time I went outside and looked North in the general direction of Cape Canaveral, not really expecting to see much. I watched on my atomic set clock as the designated time ticked by. I didn’t see much. It was a little cloudy. So, “Oh well” I thought and turned around to go back in… and saw a big fireball in the sky!

As it turned out I was muddled in my having just woken up 5 minutes ago state, and had been looking east, not north. But to the North I could see it very clearly. It had just cleared the trees obscuring my view in that direction. It was bright. It was flaming. There were sparks coming off the back. It was headed straight up for a bit, then turned to the east and headed away. I watched it as it got further away and got dimmer and the angle got more horizontal seeming.

Then the sound hit. A really loud sub-woofer-style bone rattling rumble. And then the sound continued. And continued. The spacecraft was no longer visible. I headed inside for a second. A minute later I came back out. The rumble was still going, and actually even louder. The rumble lasted a good five minutes before you couldn’t hear it any longer. And you could FEEL it for a little while even past then.

I was very excited. This was my first actual rocket launch! And I am close enough to the cape to see it from my front yard!!! And not only to see it, but to FEEL IT. I know this is old hat to Ivan, who has seen a few of these, and maybe to any of the rest of you if you have. But I thought it was very cool. I immediately regretted not having woken up Brandy or Amy. But with the clouds and everything, and not knowing exactly how much would be visible or not from the house, I didn’t know if it would be worth it. Now I know. It is very worth it! (Well, at least until it gets boring after a few times I guess.)

This was a Delta 2 rocket carrying the Messenger spacecraft. According to NASA’s site, the next scheduled launch from here is an Atlas 2AS on August 31st with a spy satellite for the NRO. Then the next one is a test launch of a Delta 4 in September. I’ll definitely have to check those out! Uh, if I can remember.

Anyway, I’m sorry I didn’t wake up Brandy and Amy for it, but as excited as I was, didn’t see much point in waking them up AFTER it was over, so I decided to email all of you instead. It was cool. I like rockets! :-)

Closer to the Source

Remember way back when on those forged Yellowcake documents that were part of the case for going into Iraq? I wondered a few times why people were just concentrating on why the administration was fooled (or wanted to be fooled). I said the bigger story that nobody was talking much about was where did the docs come from. Well, a bunch of people have been slowly working on that. Here is the latest development.

Agent behind fake uranium documents worked for France
(Bruce Johnson, Telegraph)

The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.

(via Captain’s Quarters)

Interesting. The speculation is that France planted it in the hopes that the US would use it, so France could then expose it at an appropriate time to make the US look silly and hurt the pro-war argument. Hmm. Maybe. We’ll see what continues to come out. Initially though, my first reaction is that it is the same kind of conspiracy thinking as those who thought Rove was behind the forged Bush national guard docs. In both cases, we’re talking people forging documents that build cases against themselves in the hopes the forgeries will be discovered (but not traced all the way back to them) and then make the people who actually use the forgeries in public look bad. Very high risk plan. Lots of potential for backfire. But which COULD work if it went exactly according to plan.

In the case of the forged Bush documents, it now looks pretty clear that a less convoluted path explains what happened. The originator looks like it was this Bill Burkett guy who has been trying to rile up the National Gaurd issue against for many years and who may have “recreated” these documents, the originals of which were supposedly destoryed years ago. No oddness, no strange loops. Just a guy with an agenda who thought this could help his cause, but who was completely wrong and ended up with the opposite result than he intended. And the people along the chain who wished it was true so much they passed it along without even the slightest bit of doubt or questioning.

Hmmm… that part sounds like the Yellowcake docs again. Maybe they are similar after all. Maybe the “they came from French Intelligence” thing will pan out. I haven’t seen enough to make a judgement yet. But on these sorts of things, Occam’s Razor *usually* wins out in the end. But not always. We will see.