Saturday, 30 April 2011

Meet and greet

A few hundred metres - I guess it’s about as close as I’ll ever get to the President of America.

With the launch postponement still fresh, the visit of President Barack Obama and his family to Kennedy Space Center on Friday afternoon gave the assembled media something else to focus on.

I joined some of the TV crews and presenters on the roof of the CBS tower which is a good two storeys high and provided a grandstand view of the space centre landscape.

Obama was arriving on site by Marine helicopter after landing at the nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station - and the media cameras were scouring the horizon, all wanting to be first to pick up the imminent arrival.

America doesn’t do things by halves and in the end there were five military helicopters buzzing over KSC as the President swooped in, taking in a view of Endeavour on the pad on the way over.

From our distance it wasn’t easy to identify exactly which helicopter he was in - but then it turned out we’d been dupped anyway.

As we all focussed on the four big helicopters manoeuvring in from the north east behind the giant Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), Obama’s chopper had discretely moved in at lower level from a westerly direction.

The first family was already on the ground as the four military escort helicopters put on a mini display for the live TV cameras, making it look as though they were landing the President.

So there was President Obama, wife Michelle and their two girls already being shown around the Atlantis Space Shuttle in the Orbiter Processing Facility, in reality not so far from where we were standing.

It would have been the first time in NASA history that a sitting President and his family had witnessed a Shuttle launch.

As well as seeing Atlantis in the VAB, The President and his wife met briefly with Endeavour's crew. Obama told them he was still hoping to get back to Florida for a liftoff.

So, unhappily but not unexpectedly, I didn’t get remotely close enough for a Presidential meet and greet or that all important handshake. The official party remained mostly inside while we media were cocooned on our tower, watching from afar in the afternoon sunshine.  

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