And it's another fine day in the annals of manned rocketry. The countdown so far has gone exactly according to plan -- "nominal," in the standard mission-control nomenclature -- and its' now only about fifteen minutes behind schedule, which, in the rocket business, is close to perfection.
Little puffs of steam are venting off the side of the launch vehicle from where the propellant supply hose connects to the fuselagenothing to worry about, though, just a normal part of the pressuring-up sequence. The steam puffs are blown away quickly by the wind that's been fanning down from the northwest all afternoon. Not much cooling in those breezes, for the temperature right now is hovering somewhere near ninety, but who cares? We're here, after all, not for our own comfort, but to see a rocket launch, to watch a human being ascend up into the heavens and, if he's lucky, return back to Earth again, all in one piece.
A safe distance away from the launch site, the audience -- numbering some fifteen thousand, according to estimates -- is listening to a Butte, Montana, high school band, resplendent in its silver and purple uniforms, play the national anthem and "Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder." Astronaut Jim Lovell is here to provide commentary, David Frost is doing live interviews, and Jules Berg