Leonid MAC 1999:
We boarded the buses at midnight, where we were taken to a holding room. About 12:30 Ian Murray of Canada walked over and sat down. We started talking about comets and meteor showers. He said he was using the intro to my Meteor Showers book as a resource for his thesis. We talked for over an hour. Around 2 a.m. we finally boarded the planes and took off a little before the scheduled time.
This was the last and most boring mission night. Everyone seemed really wore out from the exciting 9 hour flight of the night before. Several of us could hardly keep our eyes open while observing with the headsets. The Leonids were not plentiful.
We landed at Patrick AFB near Cocoa Beach, Florida. This was not an overly friendly group of people at this base. After the excessive courtesy at Mildenhall and Lajes, and the unexpected friendly reception in Tel Aviv, Patrick AFB was an unexpected disappointment. When we finally got off the plane, there were guards everywhere that seemed to almost surround us and they were all standing with their arms crossed, which seemed a little intimidating. They took us to a small room to await the customs people. When the customs people arrived, they opened up most of our bags and even took some things out. I had purchased a porcelain angel for my wife and the shopkeeper at Praia was nice enough to tape the t-shirts around it that I had bought for my boys. The customs people at Patrick pulled out the package and asked me what it was. I told them. Then they proceeded to tear the tape away anyway. I half expected them to break the angel open to make sure there was nothing stashed inside! Instead they handed the shirts and angel to me and left me to repack everything. We were even asked lots of questions.
So here we were, glad to finally be back in the United States, and the first annoying time of the mission happens here. But the second most annoying time of the mission was soon to follow. We were taken to the Hilton at Cocoa Beach around 9:00 and were told there were no rooms available. They said they would work to change that while we ate breakfast. Well, we finished breakfast and only a handful of rooms were ready. Most of us found chairs and even floor space to sit and wait. Soon you could hear snoring as exhausted people fell asleep. In one corner I saw, and took pictures of, Chris and Michael sleeping on the floor, with Dave and others on the nearby couch. I finally got my room around 10:30 and immediately called Karen and the boys. I was so happy to hear from them all, especially the boys, who I had thought would be in school. Instead, it was a scheduled day off for them.
I went to sleep at 11 a.m. and woke up at 3 p.m. At 3:30 I called the front desk to have them connect me to the rooms of Klaas and Michael. Interestingly, they had no record of Michael Schmidhuber. I ended up waking Klaas, but he said it was okay because he wanted to walk down the beach before our dinner tonight. As we left we stopped at the front desk to check and see what room Michael was in. Again they told us they had no record of him. Klaas and I reluctantly left without Michael and walked down the beach. It was a nice day and the waves were higher than normal because hurricane Lenny was to the east of us. When we returned to the hotel we actually ran into Michael as he was walking out to the beach. As it turned out he ran up to a car rental place to plan transportation for tomorrow as he was driving to Miami to fly home. Michael went on down to the beach, while Klaas and I headed to our rooms to dress warmer for the dinner. There was quite a breeze blowing because of Lenny. On the way to our rooms I introduced Klaas to something new--air hockey! He seemed to really like it.
Klaas and I headed back downstairs around 6:30. Everyone was given a free drink before dinner. I had a Mai Tai. Dinner was great. I piled my plate full with barbecued ribs, barbecued chicken, and lots of other familiar foods. Unfortunately, hurricane Lenny made its presence known as it started raining on us. The party had to move indoors. The Hilton people moved us into the bar area.
Steve Butow and Peter Jenniskens thanked everyone for their participation. Since many people were not going back to Edwards, Steve and Peter gave out certificates of appreciation. Peter actually took the mike when I went up to get my certificate and said a few special words about me and my web site.
Afterwards I had a good time sitting and talking with Dave, Bob Meyers, and others. At 11:30 I went up to my room, watched TV for a bit, and then went to bed.
If you have any questions, please email me