Saturday, November 15, 2008

The last scheduled Space Shuttle night launch was yesterday, so being a fan of space exploration in general, I thought I'd better put my foot down and finally make it to a shuttle launch. What kind of space fan lives in Florida and doesn't see a launch at least once?

I'd had a particularly bad day at work - my Great Dane Patch had his first "accident" at work due to a very bad tummy upset, so I spent my last hour apologizing and scrubbing the carpet. I'm going to pay closer attention to this in future, and leave him home if he's had any problems in that department, since I know how lucky I am to be able to bring him to work every day.

Anyway, after that awful mess I decided to treat myself and try to make it to Titusville for the 7.55 pm launch. The weather was good and they said there was a 70% chance of a successful launch, so I zipped home, grabbed the camera and hit the highway.

Traffic was heavy at first, due to a closed lane, but it soon opened up and I reached the Titusville exit at about 7.30 pm. Driving into town I knew there was little chance of reaching Spaceview Park, and it was curious how natural it seemed to just turn off the road into a strip mall parking lot when the car in front of me did so, and the car behind me did the same thing. Obviously we were all there for the same thing.

I turned the radio to a local station that was covering the launch and lowered the windows so I, and the neighbouring cars, could hear some commentary. I put the camera into spot metering mode, attached the 80-200mm zoom and pushed the ISO rating to 800, forcing the camera to use the fastest shutter speed it could. I'm glad I did that, otherwise it'd be streaky-time, and you don't get second shots at this kind of event.

The buzz in the crowd went up at the 30 second mark and when the final 10 second countdown began everyone stood up. When the moment of liftoff came, the whole sky in front of us lit up like dawn, then an amazingly bright spot appeared and climbed to the skies. It was a clear night, so we were able to watch it all the way up, until it was just a bright spot. We could even see the SRBs seperate and begin their tumble back into the ocean. The sound of the launch didn't hit us till about 45 seconds after it had begun, and it was a big bass rumble that seemed to come from the whole sky at once.

There are a lot of things not to like about the Shuttle program, but it's an impressive sight when it launches!
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