Attempted Shuttle Launch Attracts Billionaire, Google … and a Mystery Man in a Dog Suit?
Michigan Tech University mascot Blizzard T. Husky poses with a mockup of a NASA space shuttle while awaiting the final launch of space shuttle Discovery between Nov. 1 and Nov. 5 in 2010.
CREDIT: Michigan Tech [Full Story]
Among the estimated thousands of disappointed space fans who hoped to see space shuttle Discovery's final launch last week were some notable VIPs ? a long list that includes an American billionaire, a Google co-founder and a mystery college student dressed as a giant dog.
NASA tried to launch Discovery on Friday (Nov. 5) after four days of delays due to technical glitches and foul weather, but ultimately called off the space shot until Nov. 30 due to a fuel leak and external tank crack.
According to NASA's latest VIP list, American billionaire Paul Allen, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and the Honorable Samuel Hinds ? the prime minister of the South American country of Guyana ? were among the dignitaries visiting NASA's Kennedy Space Center for the shuttle Discovery's launch.
What about the dog suit?
One eager space fan who spent the week awaiting Discovery's launch is actually a mystery man: He is a Michigan Technological University student who masquerades as Blizzard T. Husky, the university's canine mascot. [Photo: Michigan Tech mascot with shuttle mock-up]
Like other shuttlegoers, he went home launch-less.
"He had a wonderful time anyway," Michigan Tech spokeswoman Jennifer Donovan told SPACE.com. "He got to visit the Astronaut Hall of Fame, to sit in a gravity-force simulator, and to do all kinds of other Florida things (beach romp, surf shop visit) that were first-times for a Husky from the snowy Upper Peninsula of Michigan."
The Michigan Tech mascot paid most of his own way to Florida, with help from a private supporter of Michigan Tech athletics, Michigan Tech officials said. As to the person inside the Blizzard suit ? that remains a mystery, they added.
"Blizzard's identity is a closely guarded secret, and he wants it to stay that way," Donovan said.
Other shuttle launch hopefuls
Famed Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin ? the second man ever to walk on the moon ? and actress Nichelle Nichols (who portrayed "Lt. Uhura" on the classic "Star Trek" TV series) also posted updates on their Twitter sites stating their plans to try and watch Discovery's launch last week.
Nichols wrote that she attended Discovery's first launch attempt on Nov. 1 before heading home to California for the Nov. 2 elections. Aldrin wrote that he was in Florida in time for Discovery's Nov. 5 launch try.
Nicko McBrain, the drummer for the heavy metal band Iron Maiden, was also reportedly hoping to see Discovery's space shuttle launch. He was on NASA's VIP list for the launch around Nov. 4, NASA records show.
This was the second NASA center members of Iron Maiden officially visited this year. In June, the band received a behind-the-scenes tour of NASA's Johnson Space Center with astronaut Michael Massimino.
Among the other notable VIP guests were Danny Schayes, former center for the NBA's Orlando Magic basketball team; retired U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph Kittinger, who set the record for highest parachute jump ? 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) ? in 1960; Eric Anderson, chairman and CEO of the Virginia-based space tourism firm Space Adventures; and former NASA astronaut Scott Altman, who commanded the final mission to the Hubble Space Telescope in May 2009 and is now vice president of strategic planning at ASRC Research and Technology Solutions.
NASA currently hopes to launch the space shuttle Discovery on Nov. 30 at 4:05 a.m. EST (0905 GMT). The planned 11-day space mission will mark the final flight of Discovery and will deliver a new storage room and humanoid robot to the International Space Station.
NASA is retiring Discovery and its two other orbiters, Atlantis and Endeavour, in 2011 to make way for new space exploration efforts aimed at sending astronauts to visit an asteroid and, eventually, Mars. Discovery and its sister ships will be retired to museums to be displayed for the public.
- Gallery: Shuttle Discovery's Midnight Launch of 2009
- Video ? Space Shuttle Discovery: A Retrospective, Part 2, Part 3
- Space Shuttle Discovery's Retirement Plan in Limbo
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