White Collar Reset: Miles O'Brien, space cowboy


Miles O'Brien was having a bad day. On Monday, the laid-off CNN correspondent and former host of the network's morning show found himself in the anchor chair for the live broadcast of the space shuttle launch over on SpaceFlightNow.com, which wouldn't have been a problem necessarily, except that this was the fifth attempt by the aging spacecraft to get airborne and each time it was costing O'Brien more money. The launch, originally scheduled for June 13, had been postponed ("scrubbed" in space lingo) twice due to mechanical difficulties and then twice more last weekend by thunderstorms. Six hours before each new scheduled launch time, O'Brien and co-anchor David Waters and their production team would reconvene in their makeshift outdoor booth at the Kennedy Space Center and start their count-down show . . . and go another $4,000 to $5,000 into the hole because the sponsors they'd lined up had only staked them to enough of a budget for one broadcast, not five.

Now two more storm cells were approaching, one about 20 miles to the north of the launch pad and another about 10 miles to the south. O'Brien held the weather monitor (actually his laptop, logged onto the National Weather Service's website) on his knee, trying to hold it at such an angle that the show's lone cameraman could zoom in on what O'Brien was pointing at without the view being obscured by sun's glare bouncing off the screen. "Arggh . . . and we just went red. I'm getting word we just went red again," he informed his viewers, using the space jargon for another-five-grand-down-the-tubes.