Yesterday morning at 8:00am CT launch viewing ticket for the next Space Shuttle launch went on sale. We tried this back in June when I managed to get causeway tickets but we drove to Florida just to find out that STS-127 had been scrubbed. For so long I’ve wanted to see a Space Shuttle launch, and with only six more launches left (the last Space Shuttle mission is in September 2010) we decided to try again for the next one on November 16th.
The NASA causeway is the best place to view a launch. It’s still six miles from the launch pad, but it’s an unobstructed view and it’s the closest they let regular people watch (the press and NASA people get to watch from three miles away). The number of tickets is limited and they are known to sell out fast. We were ready yesterday morning refreshing the order page on the Kennedy Space Center website a few minutes before 8:00am. On my screen I had a window open with an atomic clock to know exactly what time it was. At 7:59:50am the “Buy” button appeared on the order page. Amy and I, each on our own computer, immediately tried to buy two tickets, but no luck. It immediately said “Sold Out”.
Oh no, how can these tickets be sold out in a matter of seconds? We didn’t believe this and figured there must be a problem with the website. For the next few minutes we kept refreshing the page and trying to add the tickets to our shopping cart, but each time we got “Sold Out” . Then all of a sudden I got through and got a form to enter my details. Whoo-hoo! A clock at the top of the page started counting down; you have 8 minutes to complete the order and then the tickets will be made available to other people again. I had already put all my address and payment details in a Notepad so all I had to do was paste them into the form. When I was done and clicked the button to confirm my order I suddenly got the “Sold Out” error. Drats!
By this time it was about 8:10am and I knew for sure now that there was a problem with the website. After all, I should have had 8 minutes to complete the order! I decided to try and give them a call while Amy continued to refresh the page on her computer. I kept getting a busy signal for about 10 minutes and then finally got through. I pressed “2” for information about Shuttle launches, then “3” to order tickets only to be told that they’re experiencing a high volume of calls right now and please try again later. What? I finally got through and then they hang up on me? I hung up and tried dialing again and again and again. Each time it was busy and every 20 tries or so I got through but was hung up again.
At 8:30am or so the website homepage finally said that all tickets were sold out and I still hadn’t been able to talk to anyone on the phone. I found a Tweet from someone that said “DO NOT TRY the website. Call them instead.” and on the Facebook page of Kennedy Space Center some people were having a discussion about the website problem and some said they had just been able to order tickets by phone. So I didn’t want to give up.
I figured out that after being told to hang up I could press “0” to return to the main menu and try it again without having to dial again. Hey, that was handy. I went through this maybe fifty times: 2, 3 .. told to hang up .. 0, 2, 3 … told to hang up .. 0, 2, 3 … etc. FINALLY I got through and was put on hold. I was going to speak to the next available rep. By this time it was 8:45am and I didn’t have any hope that tickets were still available, but at the very least I wanted to find out if my online order from earlier had gone through.
After 5 minutes of waiting I finally got to speak to someone. She said that they still had tickets left! But only “dine with an astronaut” tickets. These tickets are $20 more expensive and you get to have breakfast with a real astronaut in the morning before you take the bus to the causeway to see the launch. Well, I didn’t have to think twice about that! Of course, gimme two of those! I gave all my details over the phone and that was it.
Wow, that was a stressful one hour of trying to get these tickets yesterday morning. I never received a confirmation by email yesterday, so this morning I called them again (got through right away this time) and they confirmed that we’re in the system and the tickets will be mailed to us on November 2nd. I’m so looking forward to going to Florida again and really hope the launch won’t be scrubbed this time. Keep your fingers crossed!