Off Beat: Move to Kuwait fails to disrupt youngsters’ shuttle-launch routine

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to enjoy a space launch.

When a Vancouver couple’s grandchildren had a chance to see several shuttle launches, the spectacular sight definitely made an impression — even though the kids were a bit sketchy on the whole process at that point.

It happened when Farouk and Janette Huneidi were living in Titusville, Fla., while Farouk was working as an engineer for NASA. His career recently was the subject of a story in The Columbian.

Two grandchildren — a 3-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy — came for an extended visit during a span when NASA launched seven shuttles in less than a year from Cape Canaveral.

“We would turn on the television to watch the actual launch,” Janette Huneidi said. “We’d watch the countdown, and see the fire as it lifted off.

“Then we would turn around and go out the back door and watch across the Indian River,” she said. “The shuttle came up over the treetops and headed on its journey along down the coast of Florida.

“We did this at least three times,” she said. When the visit ended, the kids returned home to Kuwait.

“When they went back home, a shuttle was being launched. Their mother let them watch the launch on TV,” Janette said.

Yep …

As the TV screen in the family’s apartment in Kuwait showed the shuttle rising above the trees, she said, “They ran to the window to look at it.”

Issue of some gravity

Camas astronaut Mike Barratt recently shared some aspects of life in zero gravity with Columbian readers, but he also explained some of the issues with getting readjusted to gravity.

“Different astronauts take different times to acclimate to zero gravity,” Barratt said during a presentation at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

“I am writing a paper now on adapting to zero gravity, on variables and milestones you can document,” said Barratt, a NASA flight surgeon. “Then coming back again, it’s different for every person. When you land, every system readapts at a different rate.

“I was strong when I landed, because I exercised for two hours day. But my sense of balance was wacko. That tends to come back the latest. It took me probably 30 days before I had (overcome) all the residual effects.”

And that’s one reason, Barratt said, why astronauts are not allowed to drive a car or pilot a plane for at least 30 days after returning from a space mission.

— Tom Vogt

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.