Saturday Part 2

They continue to take it right up to the last minute before making their decision.

A little while before Scooter would fire the engines to start their descent - if they were going to land - we heard a command from Mission Control to the astronauts: "begin loading."

I make some inquiries, and it turns out that this refers to "fluid loading" - essentially drinking a bunch of water.  Apparently, astronauts in space tend to get dehydrated.  Returning to earth after nearly two weeks without gravity is tough on their bodies, and dehydration makes it worse.  Some returning astronauts have needed an IV to restore fluids before they can walk steadily out of the shuttle.

To counteract this, they must drink fluids right before they come down - a lot of fluids.  Sixty-four ounces of liquid, which I calculate is just slight less than an entire six-pack.

Now, approaching the second landing opportunity of this morning, I again hear the command: "Atlantis, begin loading."

Wow - they each drank nearly six 12-ounce glasses of water roughly an hour ago, and now they have to do it again.
While we wait, we chat with the Weather Officer, who explains various video displays they have here.  One system allows them to measure electrical conditions in nearby clouds, and actually predict lightning before it comes.

Finally, 90 minutes or so after the first postponement, we again hear the announcement: today's landing has been waved off due to weather; they will try again tomorrow morning.  There are audible groans at the press site.

I'm disappointed too, but I'm thinking it must be worse for the astronauts. The shuttle cabin is barely the size of a minivan - not a lot of room for seven people.  And before reentry, they have a whole long list of prep to do, stowing everything away and getting into their landing suits.  Now all that has to be undone, then redone again tomorrow morning, for the third day in a row.  It must be frustrating (though they do get to spend another day looking out the window).

And -- after all that fluid loading -- I can imagine there must be quite a line at the bathroom...
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