A Newscast IS Indeed a Lot Like A Space Shuttle Launch

When you think about it, a daily newscast is a lot like launching a space shuttle. I say this after my lovely and talented and bride and I had the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes-tour of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and watched the shuttle Endeavour launch in the wee hours of the morning March 11th. More on that in just a moment.

Joe, what do mean a shuttle launch and a daily newscast have a lot in common? Well, funny you should ask. First, most people have no idea what goes into launching the shuttle or getting a newscast on the air. Somehow all the prep work just magically gets done for both and the general public has no idea how many people it takes to get both on/in the air. Granted there are a heck of a lot more people working on the shuttle to that get off the pad but the sheer number of folks involved in a newscast surprises non-TV folks.  From deciding what story will be covered, how it will be covered, how it is written, what form it will take (vo, vo/sot, packaged report or reader) who will report, who will read it, etc.  There’s the production side with people operating studio cameras or in some cases working the robotic cameras, the teleprompter (if the anchors aren’t running it themselves).  Then there are the sales people who sell the commercial spots and the engineering staff that keeps the machinery operating and the signal on the air. Hey, ask WHNT how important that technical stuff was on that recent 60 Minutes broadcast. And then, once the broadcast/shuttle is launched, you’ve got a bunch of people scrambling to make sure it’s smooth sailing until the program is over. All that time, you’ve got people planning and making preparations for the next launch/broadcast. Plus, you are only as good as your last effort.  People will tune in to see how things fly and generally you don’t get much feedback unless there is a problem. When that happens you never hear the last of it and the big problems get re-hashed over and over either on You-Tube or the network/cable news.  Granted, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get a newscast on the air but it does take teamwork and a lot of coordination.

As I mentioned my lovely and talented bride and I were invited down to the Kennedy Space Center for a tour and the opportunity to sit through a launch.  (I hesitate to mention on this blog the name of the person who invited us because that person might suddenly get slammed with requests).  Actually, we were first invited to come down in early December 2007 but that was the same time my youngest son decided to get married in Louisville so our visit was postponed.  It turned out that particular shuttle launch was delayed until February 2008 because of technical problems.  We opted not to go for that launch and wait until March.  When our tour group was escorted into the Orbiter  Processing Facility, we found ourselves in a large room with a ceiling only about 8 or 9 feet high.  Turns out that “ceiling” was the belly of the shuttle and you could see all of the heat shield tiles up close and personal and the work being conducted to inspect them.  It was absolutely incredible to be that close to the shuttle.  I won’t bore you with details of the rest of the tour although Bethany and I found the tour FAR from boring.  In fact it was downright incredible.  Fast forwarding to the launch, we watched from about three miles away.  On lift-off, the shuttle lit up the early morning sky (2:30 a.m.) and for a moment it was almost like looking at an arc-welder.  Briefly it was as if the Sun was under the shuttle.  The rumbling of the liftoff vibrated around the viewing stand and it was quite spectacular until the shuttle passed through a very thick cloud layer at 6 thousand feet.  Then the light disappeared as if someone flipped a switch.  We thought we would see the shuttle as it climbed higher but we didn’t see it again.  That was slightly disappointing but it was still an incredible and moving experience to be on hand for the launch.  It also gives even a jaded old news person new respect for those who climb aboard the shuttle and travel into space.  It also gives me a new appreciation for the team that gets that bird in the air and into space.

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3 Comments on “A Newscast IS Indeed a Lot Like A Space Shuttle Launch”

  1. JAC Says:

    I try to always watch the take offs and the “flying brick” landings on the Tube. It is amazing and being there sounds even better.

    Thanks Joe and welcome back.

  2. Doug J. Says:

    Sounds like a nice experience. Now that it’s warming up, and I’m about to have a backyard, mebbe we build our own rocket. I mean, how difficult could it be? I seem to remember Andy Griffith going into space in a home-built rocket in a TV movie. I’ve even got a couple of suggestions of people to pilot the craft. Get back to me.

  3. joelarkins Says:

    I think the name of the series of which you speak is “Salvage One” with Andy Griffith. Instead of an eagle as an emblem, it featured a vulture. After the pilot, which featured a trip to the moon in a home-made space ship to salvage Apollo space vehicles, they tried to spin this into a series where they, among other things. went looking for Bigfoot, the show died. Going to the moon was a hard act to follow and Andy was probably trying to get himself a lawyering gig in Atlanta anyway. As for possible pilots and or crew for OUR home-made rocket, you put together your top five, I’ll put together my top five, we’ll shoe-horn them into the capsule and together we will “light this candle”. I think we have the right stuff to do it.

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