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Combat Hospital, Space Shuttle Discovery Blasts Off

Aired December 9, 2006 - 20:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have a tube in your mouth that's helping you breathe, OK? Try not to fight it. We're taking care of you, all right? We're going to give you something to help you relax and keep your pain down, OK? You're in Baghdad right now. You're doing all right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, let's go, guys. Let's mobilize.

LT. COL ROBERT MAZUR, M.D., NEW YORK, NEW YORK: So they come in this room, and they either go to beds one, two, or three.

Big trauma stuff happens here, a lot of tubes in chests, blood on the floor, blood on your shoes. This looks like a wreck, and this is not what a trauma hospital in the U.S. would look like, but it works.

CAPT. DAVID STEINRBUNER, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS: We don't know. Truthfully, you won't know until they get here. They were urgent and it sounded like there was nervousness in the voice of the people calling it in.

Once you see the danger, see the problems, see the injuries, you're like, OK, we can deal with that. It doesn't matter how bad it is. But not knowing what's coming, that's worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy crap. Access guys get the IR out. OK, bud. All right, clear him off, guys. What is your name?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the clothes are going to come off, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's pretty pale. Breathe deep for me, Caleb.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you having trouble breathing over there?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's real pale, guys.

We've got an injury right here, amputation here, pretty bad injury on the right there. Can you move that hand at all? Yeah. Good. That's a good sign, bud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, am I going to lose my (EXPLETIVE DELETED) leg?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. That I don't know. OK? We'll try to save it if we can. I just don't know. I can't give you an answer on that yet.

We had a young American soldier, totally alert and awake. He got a near amputation of his right hand and a very bad, bad fractures proximally and through the soft tissue of his left leg. He may or may not lose the left leg, too. With any luck, they can keep that going.

Don't you dare try to die on me. I didn't give you permission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't let me die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won't let you to die. I promise. I promise. OK? I give you my word. OK?

That was an easy promise for me to make. Because I'm pretty sure I can keep him from dying. He lost a lot of blood in the field but he is a young, healthy guy. So he was compensating and that's why he could talk and maintain everything like that. But you could see the color of his skin. He was pale. He was definitely looking very, very sick.

We've got to put him down. The poor guy is waking up. Totally with it, yeah. Yeah.

He says, "Please don't let me die." Sometimes I've said, "I won't," but every once in a while, I have, and that's the worst, you know? Some guys come off the battlefield so fresh -- not him. He'll do fine. Off the battlefield they're so fresh. They're going to die. We just don't know it yet. That's bad stuff. So ...

I think we try not to follow up on the patients and not really think too hard about what happens next. That makes it a little easier to bare. Feel like, OK, you did something good for that guy. He was in a lot of pain, he got definitive care. And then we kind of -- end of story. We did the best we could.

Then hopefully his life is OK, but we don't know.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep it in there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're doing good, sweetie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it the face or the ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, no the face. You guys are pushing down really hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to, OK? Watch your head. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My toes are killing me.

LT. NATALIE SKATES, R.N., POLSON, MONTANA: Your toes are killing you? We're going to give you more pain medication, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What finger hurts you now?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the story, Doc?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your face is going to-- if there's no fracture fractures, it's going to require a lot of sewing and wash out in the E.R.

SKATES: We're going to lift you up a little bit, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we're lifting. Hang on to that IV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your left toe, looks like you're going to lose a little bit of the distal part, the end of it right at the toenails there. Just a tip off the big toe and maybe the second toe in, just the tip.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will I still be able to walk?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Of course. Not a problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll be able to do P.T. after this.

SKATES: There's a puncture wound right here, a few punctures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This isn't my first barbecue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, yeah? You've been to this before? You've got to stop visiting us. We appreciate you taking one for the team.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hate you guys.

SKATES: But we love you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We love you, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the same nurse that treated me before.

I didn't notice her by her face, but by her voice.

SKATES: I know, sweetie. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's how I knew. I was here last time. It was not that long ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want to be a frequent flier with us. That's never a good sign. After that happens, you win a set of steak knives and get to go home. How about that?

SKATES: This one is a first for me, having a repeat customer. A lot of them come in just with major injuries and they're joking around, trying to pull through. They just roll with the punches.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Based on your experience, how long do you think it's going to take for me to recover?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good question. Probably, I don't know, maybe a month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A month for all this shit to recover?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got to prolong that because I still have three months left.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I say that? I mean three months. Didn't I say three months?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't call my mom this time. Last time they called her, she was freaked out.

SKATES: No, no, no. You're the one who's going to call her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pass through right. And they blew another one.

SKATES: Another one?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Luckily, nobody got hurt. It's not letting me open it up all the way.

SKATES: These guys are great guys. They really are. They have courage that I just would never, ever expect people to have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That guy has served his country. I mean, wounded twice in action plus the fear of every day going out and not knowing if you're going to get wounded again. That guy is a hero.

SKATES: That is my fiancee, Kevin Scott Farley. He's a MEDEVAC pilot stationed over here. We've been dating for about a year and a half now. We ended up deploying on the same day. And it just happened to be a coincidence that MEDEVAC unit supports our hospital as well. So every once in a while, I'll get to see him. Probably once or twice every few weeks just for a few minutes at a time. Most people over here that have loved ones, they don't ever get to see their loved ones, so I'll take any minute that I can get with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The boards are clean again ad we can have a cup of coffee. It's feast or famine. Totally feast or famine. This is unheard of in the U.S. Have an empty board in an E.R. Unheard of. Maybe at 3:00 in the morning in a low volume place. Here because everybody works so hard and takes care of the patients, they don't sit around in E.R.s. They're not waiting for stuff. Get them in, get them out. Treat them, boom.

SKATES: Tell them to bring him around. Here. Drive in here. Drive. Hey, hey, drive in here.

All right. I know -- hey. Whoa, whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa.


SKATES: I got -- I know it hurts, sweetie.


SKATES: We're going to bed one, OK?

LT. MATT BOWE, R.N., HELENA, MONTANA: Yeah, every day when you see patients, you learn something new. And sometimes you can kind of build on what you've learned with the next patient and you feel really good about that. Then when you are starting to feel really confident, and feel like hot shit something will come around and completely humble you.


When you first start out being a medic and you -- the first couple of times you see something really gruesome, you go through like an automatic drive, everything comes naturally. You know what you need to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to intubate you, which means to put you to sleep for a little bit. How does that sound?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That sounds good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dude, that left leg, it's coming off.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... with the pain.


HERRERA: We don't lie to them. We don't tell them, oh, everything is going it be fine, no, no, you'll be fine. Because that's -- that can mess them up emotionally, mentally, and leave them even worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way to save the leg, huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The left leg, no. OK? Right leg, absolutely. OK? I'm sorry, man. I can't lie to you. OK? Hook me up with the intubator there. Hold on. Give me suction.

HERRERA: If you sit there and you're watching or you sit there afterwards and you think about it and it's like, wow, you know, that guy lost his leg. You know? It can really affect you, so as long as you can detach yourself from the emotions of the situation, then you just do your job and do as much as you can for the patients.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that comes out pretty well, actually.

CAPT. KARI BURROUGHS, R.N.: I have somebody's blood on me. I am hoping it's the donated blood, not the actual patient's blood. I also have the vomit on me, that's not always fun.

Should have probably had a mask on, maybe some eye protection. Because, you know, when he started puking I didn't really want that in my face.


BURROUGHS: The puke. Puke is no good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are patients that come through the door, we're taking care of everybody the same way. Host nation, terrorists, U.S., we take care of patients.

BURROUGHS: Some of them soldiers, some of them insurgents. We've had about one insurgent today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder if people back home are mad at that or not mad at that. We don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you want? Do you want him Marty?

I would say for everybody as much as we hate to admit it, if it's an American soldier in there, as opposed to anybody else, our stress level goes up.

Marty has got him. Marty's got it. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me your full name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's your first name?



WATSON: Thomas.


WATSON: Watson.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've got you, buddy. All right. All right. We've just got some oxygen on you, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What happened to you, man?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you in a vehicle or on foot?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead and give him -- take him down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right arm, left arm, where you're poking at.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got to go to sleep, OK? Try and relax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stress is a good thing. A lot of pro athletes say they want to feel that stress. Your adrenaline goes better, you oxygenate better and you perform better.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're good. You want to drop an N.T. while we're at it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Have him get five milligrams of ...

LT. RIANE NELSON, R.N., SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: I was actually the newest lieutenant that we brought over here. I'd only been out of training for about four months by the time we came, three months when we started training.

There was another nurse who was supposed to go that apparently got pregnant, so they needed somebody to fill that slot, and I was picked.

LTC JOHN GROVES, HEAD NURSE, PORTAGE, INDIANA: Riane Nelson is a special officer. She came into the army with eight months of Medevec experience which is a little small emergency room in Colorado. She worried me. She worried me. She wasn't somebody putting her nose to the grindstone. I didn't see her head in the books. She wasn't progressing fast. So we worked hard on her.

And it was many a days, weeks, when I got together with my key leaders and we thought of moving her. Then came Valentine's Day. A patient came in, CPR was being done, the patient had lost a lot of blood, and Riane was on the bed and they brought him back to life.

Commonly, when you start CPR they don't make it. But she pulled somebody out of the fire. So from that moment on, our confidence skyrocketed.

NELSON: You got this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Everybody ready? Are you with us?

NELSON: Which way are we rolling? Towards me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three, roll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ready? One, two, three, roll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's probably blood. But since you don't see any penetrating trauma, that's blunt but that also means there's no where for the blood to go.

MAJ. MARTY LUCENTI, M.D., ESSEX JUNCTION, VERMONT: He had a subdural hematoma. Which means he has got some bleeding around the brain. It was on the right side. And what that does is that squishes the brain. In severe cases, it can push your brain right down into your brainstem, right down into your spinal cord and that will kill you.

So what we did was give him stuff to minimize the bleeding and keep the pressure down and in the interim he gets taken to Balad by helicopter where they have a neurosurgeon. And the neurosurgeon will take him urgently to the E.R. and drill a hole right in his skull to let that hematoma out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tough kid. Very good kid to take care of. Gives me goose bumps when I see how strong those guys are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, this is LTC Bana (ph) calling. I'm here with (inaudible) battalion commander from Iraq here. He would like to speak with you real quick. Here he is.

WATSON: Michelle, babe. Yeah. I'm here. I'm OK. I'm fine. We got hit. I'm a little dinged up, but I'm OK and I'm in the hospital. I'll try to call again as soon as I'm a little less drugged up, but I'm fine, babe. I'm fine.

Honey? Honey, can you hear me? Honey? Goddammit. Honey, can you hear me? I can barely hear you. It might be because I had a loud explosion in my ear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this their unit right here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard for me. To think what we're going to do, how fast we're going to do it and everything it's ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not an easy war.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there still somebody in the vehicle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. From here down from the C.O. (ph).


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, the arms and -- one arm was in one side. The nose was in ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He didn't feel it. I'm sorry. You want to do me a favor? Talk to somebody about this stuff. Because it's going to haunt your dreams for a while. You know what I mean? Which is appropriate. If you just keep it bottled in, it's going to be bad news. And the two guys you saved are coming back here to say (inaudible) to you guys on the field. OK?

STEINBRUNER: I think that guy right there, the fact that he passed out on us was the fact -- he helped bring them in, collect the pieces and -- of his own soldiers that he's responsible for, and that just overwhelmed him. These guys are like fathers to these men out here. Right? Surrogate fathers? So what happens to them happened to their sons, essentially.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Want to turn around? I got him.

Hands down (ph) you did the best you could. Try as best to prepare as best as you could so that you ward off all of those bad doodoo you know? As long as you prepare for everything that could go wrong, hopefully nothing will go wrong. Hopefully he'll be good, good to go.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't check you into the E.R. if you ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. Here's your losing toss. Here it comes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's going to beat you, Sgt. Scott.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, God. If it would have been a spiral.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There we go. Get a good look at the name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear Ortman (ph), happy birthday to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us buy you your first beer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I missed the good part.

(GROUP CHANTING): Chug! Chug! Chug!


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Healthy lifestyle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, I missed the good part!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's still good, it's still good. Ten second rule.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Stars & Stripes" charge by the lettering. "Family stability seen as among the G.I.'s top reasons" -- not to reenlist. They forgot that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't do that. That would defy gravity.

BOWE: I think probably one of the neatest things will be when we get back to the states, and we're all wearing our civilian clothes for the first time in 12 months. And it will be funny again to see who's wearing cowboy boots, and who's wearing basketball shorts. And who's wearing earrings. And we'll be the most diverse, cohesive group of Americans bar hopping Colorado Springs.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go down that thing.



CAPT. STEINBRUNER: I got you are working your homework, with all the numbers and letters that you drew, and the pictures. I got that in the mail. You drew a picture of Yoda? You're going to send it to me? Good.

I need to get a baseball glove so that I can catch when I'm out here. I left my glove back in Colorado. I don't think -- I don't think -- ask mom if my glove is in the closet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some ethics --




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Want a bag on her, Steve?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bag her? OK. Lift her up.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. There we go. Guys, we need to get access on her. Gave me a smaller tongue blade as well. I've got two right there, so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her brother shot her? Accidentally?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody slow down. We've got an air way. We're bagging it right now. How many kilos do we think she is? See what her pressures are first and some pain medicine. How about morphine? We're going to use .2 mgs per kg on her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I measure it out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perfect. That's fine. Any thoughts, gentlemen? While I have you here at the head of the bed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She needs a heart line somewhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we can either try putting it to the side of that central line.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you guys put that line in?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, it is. Everybody, quiet up. I want it a little quieter in this trauma room right now, for her sake. It's not our emergency. It's hers. Chuck's right over there. Let me wipe some stuff off real quick. Let's take off her pigtails. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both of these are going to want to be (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, there it is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's shot right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is. None. OK, ready? Go ahead and wrap the head. OK. I think this is a single gun shot wound through the trachea to the ear, just behind the canal.

Guys, listen up for a second. Listen up. This is not going to be a good outcome on her. This is not going it be a good outcome. She's got no tone, fixed pupils, no gag reflex, gun shot into the ear, probably across midline, so -- slow and purposeful.

She was shot in the right ear and it transversed through the skull, and came out the left ear. She can't -- I think she was down for about 30 minutes before we got to her. I guess I need from you, is there any hope for this girl? No? It seems to. There is actually air in the cord at the brain stem. It looks like it went right to the brain stem. I'm done. OK. That's what I thought.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her brother is sitting outside. I sat with him for a minute.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I'm about to find out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I'd say, 14 maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So he totally understands?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in a foreign language)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How is the mother doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's devastated. She's reading the Koran right now. I'll give her as much time as she wants to read it and -- then I'll go back in. When she's ready, I'll just turn -- turn off the tube. When you turn off the respirator and then cut the tube, so it's not too long. And then just we'll wait. It probably won't be very long.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you turn off the pulse, the alarms? Turn off the alarms and the beep, beep, beep, beep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can really hurt to think about her for a while. But just knowing that everyone in the room did everything that they could to take care of her is what is really important. Man, can't really talk anymore.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. After two days of disappointment, Space Shuttle Discovery may finally get a chance to blast off from Florida, we're minutes away now to the surprise and actual dismay of many who have been following this. Because things didn't look so good this morning, but this will be NASA's second launch attempt this week. And if things go well, the first nighttime take-off in four years is about to be witnessed by those of us here, who are happy enough to be bringing this to you and those of you at home who are going to be seeing this. This is television news' example of must see TV. But once you get hooked into watching one of these shuttle launches, you have a tendency to stay with it. Somebody who has been watching these for many, many years now is CNN's John Zarella. He is at the Kennedy Space Center and as I throw it over to my colleague, John Zarella, we want to welcome all of you watch watching us from around the world on CNN International as well.

John, well, it's really a bit of a surprise, isn't it. I mean the odds weren't so good, but they seemingly have gotten better and better. And now it looks like this thing is going to be a go.

JOHN ZARELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Complete flip flop in the weather. Earlier today we got up, 70 percent they weren't going to be able to go. No go.

And now tonight, the sky is beautiful, the stars are out. We've got about five and a half minutes now until lift-off of the shuttle. The vehicle is clean, no problems with that. The issues with the wind seem to have subsided. I want to go to Bonnie Schneider in our CNN Weather Center. And Bonnie, it's amazing what a flip flop has taken place here tonight.

BONNIE SCHNEIDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right. And you know how Florida weather is so changeable. We were watching the winds, particularly some of the crosswinds. But as we take a look at the Kennedy Space Center, what we're looking at right now are the winds that have actually died down a bit, just to give you an idea, an overview of where we're speaking of, the launch pad here, 39B is where the shuttle is likely to take off from, 39A to the south. The shuttle landing facility is something we were watching as well for strong winds.

Currently, winds are out of the northeast at 11 miles an hour. So there is a breeze going but at least the gusts aren't stronger than that.

As we look towards the landing facility, notice the direction here. Here is the runway, the landing strip. Northwest to southeast. And when we're talking about crosswinds, that means winds either coming from the northeast or from the southwest coming across in the opposite direction. And that's what causes the problem and that's where the concern has been.

But as we take a look at the current numbers, the winds right here near the landing facility are out of the northeast at 10 miles per hour and that is below the parameters of what's required. So overall, Rick and John, we're looking at pretty good condition conditions as to where we stand right now.

SANCHEZ: Yeah. And we should point out, for the viewers' sake, that we're not talking about the winds' effect on the actual launch, it's really the reentry that they worry about. The possibility that something could happen and as a result there would be a tough time because of that crosswind bringing it back. John, you and I have covered a lot of these, both being Floridians. And there was a time we looked at these space shuttle launches as no brainers. That's not the case now, is it? There's really some doubt involved again.

ZARELLA: Well, no, there certainly is and I think if you talk to NASA and we're privileged to have Rick Linnehan here with us this evening. And Rick is a veteran mission specialist of three space flights. You heard Rick in Atlanta saying that you don't take any chances. There's no way.

RICK LINNEHAN, NASA ASTRONAUT: No. Everything is pre-planned out. We've been very carefully looking at the winds and weather for the last several days now. And crosswinds look great tonight. We're go for launch.

ZARELLA: I wanted to ask you. You're up there in that vehicle, you've done it three times. It's three minutes before launch now. What's going through your mind right now?

LINNEHAN: Right now, the crew -- they've been on their backs for a while, they are waiting to launch. They're all ready to launch. They're running through all their procedures, but you can bet they're running through their procedures, their training that they have been through the last year, close to two years sometimes per crew, per launch, la making sure they know exactly what's expected of them, the nominal procedures, they're monitoring flight data file procedures they have with them, and they're just going through everything that's occurred over the last two years outside training and hoping for the best.

ZARELLA: You had responsibilities as a mission specialist in those last few minutes before launch or is that pretty much the commander and the pilot?

LINNEHAN: The commander, pilot and MS2, MS1 on the flight deck have the main responsibilities for launch. There are mission specialists who sit down on the mid deck, monitoring launch and listening, but all the bells and whistles are upstairs and the pilot, commander and the MS2 and MS1 are the main people involved with the launch procedure.

ZARELLA: And what we're seeing right now is that the vent dome is being retracted now.


ZARELLA: Two minutes and counting. This -- You're really down to the nail biting time now, aren't you?

LINNEHAN: Yeah. Everybody's anxious. Everybody wants to go. They know what's happening. They're sitting there. They've been on their backs, like I say, for hours now. They've tried this once before. They've trained. They're ready. You can bet they all want to go. ZARELLA: And as you sit there atop that - I know you were mentioning to me, when they retract that arm away from the vehicle, at that point, you look down and go, whoa, that's a long way down.

LINNEHAN: Yeah, you're a couple hundred feet up at that point. You don't realize when you climb in, but when that RSS retracts and if you're in that general area, which the crew is strapped in and the hatch is closed, it's pretty impressive.

ZARELLA: Now do you still have your visors up at this point? What do you do? We're here, a minute and 17 seconds now.

LINNEHAN: They'll make the call to close and lock visors, they'll bring their visors down. The crew is as relaxed as they can be in their suits on their backs. And they're talking but when the time comes and the call comes, they'll close and lock visors, they'll turn their O2 supplies on and they will begin pressurization of the suits for the ascent phase of the flight.

ZARELLA: And at that point, is everybody pretty much quiet? You keep it quiet in there?

LINNEHAN: They call it a sterile cockpit, you try to be as quiet as possible, you only make calls that you need to make and you listen and you make sure all the - and they are transferring internal power right now and going down through the launch procedures.

ZARELLA: I think about 31 seconds is when you get the on-board computers kick in?

LINNEHAN: GLS kicks in. Yeah.

ZARELLA: And so you're -- This is it. You're down to the final -- you're pretty much going now. Certainly, things can happen, but you've got a pretty good shot to go.

LINNEHAN: You're closer than you've been at any other point and you hope it keeps counting down and you hear that final 10 second count.

And it's coming up.

ZARELLA: All right. Let's listen it. This is it. Looks like we're go for launch here tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: T minus 15 seconds and counting. 10 seconds.

We have a go for main engine start. Six, four, three, two, one. We have booster ignition.

ZARELLA: That's -- wow!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And liftoff of the Space Shuttle Discovery, lighting up the nighttime sky as we continue building the International Space Station.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Forty-four million horsepower, 0 to 3,500 in under two minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About to go supersonic, view from the external tank camera.

ZARELLA: They'll tell us when to talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Discovery Houston, go and throttle up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go and throttle up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All systems remain and go for Discovery. Altitude eight miles. Speed, 1,700 miles an hour. Downrange 10 miles from Kennedy Space Center.

ZARELLA: Now we're looking at the next big event. Rick, it is going to be the cutoff of the solid rocket booster separation coming up, right?

LINNEHAN: Coming up under two minutes, yep.

ZARELLA: So we're close now?

LINNEHAN: We're close.

UNIDENIFIED MALE: Two and a quarter million pounds of propellant. It now weighs ...

LINNEHAN: If we're lucky, we might actually be able to see the SRB (ph) separate.

ZARELLA: We should be able to see it on the monitors right now here, we will be able to see that booster separation.

SANCHEZ: You get the solid rocket booster - they get jettisoned. Does the external tank get jettisoned afterwards, gentlemen?

ZARELLA: Right. The external tank will come at what they call MECO, main engine cutoff.

LINNEHAN: Main engine cutoff. Exactly.

ZARELLA: About eight, 10 minutes in, right?


SANCHEZ: I understand because this is a night launch we're going to lose one of the vantage points we usually get during daytime, right? Isn't that that camera on there?

ZARELLA: Right. And look at those boosters separating there, Rick. You can see those. Fabulous. Now you're just flying on the three main engines, right, Rick?

LINNEHAN: You're flying on the three main engines. As you said, John, up until MECO, main engine cutoff, and then the external tank will be jettisoned after that. ZARELLA: Now Rick in Atlanta was talking about how because this is a night launch, you've lost a little bit of the obvious daylight visualization of the vehicle going up, can't see it as well, the optical cameras, but they have got radars are out on the two SRB recovery ships as well as radar here. So if there were to be any shedding of material off the vehicle, off the tank, they would still be able to detect that?

LINNEHAN: What they're going to do, once they get up in orbit, one of the first procedures will be to start a planned survey of the belly of the orbiter to see -- determine if there were foam shed, if it damaged any of the TPS, thermal protection system, which is the underside belly tiles and RCC, which is the leading edges of the wings.

So that is going to go on soon after they get on orbit. And like you said, with the optical cameras and radar, we have got a pretty good idea that we'll be able to tell if any foam shed, if there's any problems with the flight.

ZARELLA: Three and a half minutes into the flight here of Discovery and it sounds like, looks like they've got three good main engines burning. And I guess it would be press to MECO coming up pretty quickly here, right?

LINNEHAN: Everything is looking good. They are good -- Press to MECO, and you will hear different calls, which are performance calls for Don Rains (ph) whether they can make transatlantic abort sites such as that but ultimately it will go to MECO.

ZARELLA: What are you feeling like, right about now? What's that feeling? You've gone through all this incredible pressure of the liftoff, the strength of the vehicle.

LINNEHAN: Well, there's a lot of exhilaration. There's a lot of people real happy, they felt the kick in the pants and they're flying. You're pulling about three Gs right now. So that means you're taking three Gs transversally to your chest, it's a little bit hard to breathe, but you're not thinking about that too much. You're just glad to be there.

ZARELLA: Let's take a look at this crew. And it's an interesting crew in that five of the seven -- we're going to have a helicopter fly over here, of course. It may be hard to hear us. We've got five of the seven crew members are rookies on this flight. The flight is led by Mark Polansky, shuttle commander Mark Polansky, he is a veteran of one previous shuttle flight. Not even sure they can hear us with the chopper coming in.

SANCHEZ: Want me to take it a little bit while you do the chopper?

ZARELLA: I do. That would be great, Rick. You can do that.

SANCHEZ: I've been in your situation for quite a long time as well, John. We'll get back to you in a little bit. A couple things to talk about.

Let's go through the crew, if we possibly can. Polansky, you heard John talking about just a little bit. He is going to be the guy in charge, former U.S. Air Force major. He is from Edison, New Jersey, one previous shuttle flight, by the way.

He's being joined as well by Nicholas Patrick, he is a robotic arm operator, which by the way is going to be very important on this shuttle mission, because they are going to be doing a lot of re-wiring up there and there is going to be a couple of space walks involved. He is a mechanical engineer, London, England, Rye, New York. They call him the rookie.

Moving on, this is Christer Fuglesang, spacewalker, as we were just mentioning, physicist, Stockholm, Sweden, rookie as well. Interesting to note.

And Sunita Williams, space walker, commander, U.S. Navy. From Needham, Massachusetts, interesting, the use of the word rookie. I can't wait to get Rick's explanation of that.

William Oefelein is a pilot, commander U.S. Navy from Anchorage, Alaska, as well. Moving on, Robert Curbeam is a spacewalker, captain, U.S. Navy, Baltimore, Maryland, two previous shuttle flights.

And finally I do believe Higginbotham is next. Right? Joan Higginbotham. She is a robotic arm operating, Chicago, Illinois, former Kennedy Space Center engineer as well.

And we should note and we made a mention of this. Because you saw the robotic arm and the spacewalkers, they're going up, John and Rick, essentially to do a lot of rewiring, almost as if we had our home connected to a generator and we were moving into a solar electric system, right? Isn't that what they're going to do?

ZARELLA: What's that, Rick?

SANCHEZ: Sorry about that. I thought we had communication. Let's go over about what they are going to be doing. John and Rick.

ZARELLA: We're here. Yeah?

SANCHEZ: We understand the astronauts doing a lot of spacewalks on this trip will essentially be rewiring the space station, going from what would look like more to us on earth here from a generator mode to a solar mode, for example.

ZARELLA: Yeah. They've got to reconfigure. But the space station was in sort of a temporary configuration of its power supply. And now they've got the new solar arrays, right?

LINNEHAN: Exactly. This will be the first time the International Space Station is in permanent, rather than temporary power and thermal configuration. So they're actually use the planned solar arrays. And here we come up in main engine cutoff. ZARELLA: We've got main engine cutoff coming up. That's a spectacular picture. We'll see that external tank falling away momentarily.

LINNEHAN: Looking at the rear end of the orbiter here at the wings and the bottom is the external tank. And you'll see that separate.

ZARELLA: As long as that picture holds. There it is. It's spectacular, the imagery that they can get off of the vehicles these days. I know covering these launches for the past 20 years, never had those pictures in the early days.

LINNEHAN: Pretty amazing, isn't it?

ZARELLA: Now you're pretty much committed at this point now to orbit, aren't you, at about eight minutes in now?

LINNEHAN: We're coming up in MECO. Everything looks good. The three engines will shut off. And then they'll do an orbital insertion burn, depending on the parameters and then over the next day or so they'll circularize and set themselves up for rendezvous with the International Space Station.

ZARELLA: Let me ask you very quickly as we're watching this. You did three spacewalks in the Hubble repair mission. I know that Bob Curbeam was saying how it is more difficult from a psychological standpoint, emotional standpoint than a physical drain to do that?

LINNEHAN: Bob is probably one of the biggest, strongest guys in the office. For him, there's ...

ZARELLA: Weight lifter.

LINNEHAN: Exactly. There's physical and mental stress there. And again, it's all preparation and training. Bob has a good point in that. There's so much to think about.

ZARELLA: Main engine cutoff, there it goes.

LINNEHAN: Beautiful picture. Beautiful picture.

ZARELLA: Absolutely stunning.

LINNEHAN: You can see the bottom of the orbiter there with the tiles, protective tiles. It looks clean, very clean.

ZARELLA: Separation is confirmed. You're on your way to orbit now.

LINNEHAN: They're there.

SANCHEZ: John and Rick, I'm wondering, is this recoverable?

LINNEHAN: Separation ...

ZARELLA: That's a good -- Go ahead, Rick?

SANCHEZ: We were just wondering. And I'm sure viewers are too. Both the external tank and solid rocket boosters, are they recoverable?

ZARELLA: Solid rocket boosters are. The external tank is not. It falls away, lands out in the Indian Ocean, I believe.

LINNEHAN: That's correct.

ZARELLA: I believe they're going to replay -- the launch replay for us coming up here. We'll get to take a look at it one more time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a go for main engine start. Six, four, three, two, one. We have booster ignition and liftoff at the Space Shuttle Discovery lighting up the nighttime sky as we continue building the International Space Station.


ZARELLA: You were saying, Rick, it lights up the sky. It's like the sun coming up again, isn't it?

LINNEHAN: There is nothing quite like a like a night launch.

ZARELLA: Just absolutely spectacular, night launches. Were any of your missions night launch missions?

LINNEHAN: Pretty close. My last mission launched just as -- we delayed for a day and then launched the next day, and the sun was just coming up, made for a nice launch also, but not the pitch black night launch like this has been.

ZARELLA: And that feeling right now as you're going through, you're really pressed back, aren't you?

LINNEHAN: You weigh three times as much as you normally would. So it's a bit difficult to breathe. You feel it. It's not - it's through your chest, not the longitudinal that you hear about when you're pulling lots of massive Gs, like jet fighter pilots or something like that.

ZARELLA: Well, we're going to wrap it up here in just a moment or two.

It's been such a great pleasure as we watch these images to have you with us here, veteran of three space flights and three space walks on one mission. Rick Linnehan, thanks so much for being with us.

And again, the Shuttle Discovery on its way to orbit. Everything went spectacularly well here tonight, Rick Sanchez back in Atlanta. And, Rick, it's good to have that vehicle off the ground. We can all go home now. SANCHEZ: What's interesting, John, most of us were planning to cover this, obviously, as we here at CNN usually do. But I think if you had taken bets around the newsroom, you would have been hard pressed to find anybody who would take a bet that this thing would be going off tonight. It just seemed like garbled signals were going in the opposite direction. Weren't you getting the same feedback there?

ZARELLA: Yeah, that's it. That's what everybody thought early on. Everybody though early on it wasn't going to happen, Rick, and we would be back here tomorrow night. The weather wasn't going to cooperate.

But Florida weather, as you know, it's fickle, and it turned around.

SANCHEZ: It certainly did. Those crosswinds have seemed to have gotten out of the way. Thank so much, John, for bringing us up-to- date and Rick as well.

Let's bring you up to day on what we're going to be covering for you. First of all, want to let you know that the Shuttle Discovery, for those of you who may have been joining us late and didn't get a chance to see it, is up in space.

It's essentially a mission to rewire the space station. The space station, as you know, went into orbit in 1998. It may be somewhat antiquated at this point and so they're going to get a brand new electrical system.

We say adieu now. I'm Rick Sanchez. Thanks so much for being with us. Glad to be able to bring you this coverage. Larry King is coming up next with his interview of Marlo Thomas. We'll be back.


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