Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour - STS118

We set out to view the launch of Shuttle Endeavour from the Astronaut Hall of Fame. This is a little further away from the launch site than the previous area we went to at Kennedy Space Center's Visitor Center to view the launch of STS-117 in June. We weren't able to leave work until afternoon. There was a lot more traffic and by the time we got to the Astronaut Hall of Fame the front gate was closed off.

This is the lawn at the Astronaut Hall of Fame where people were camped to view the shuttle launch.

Space shuttle in front of the Astronaut Hall of Fame.

We managed to inch our way through traffic to turn around and head south on Route 1, where we happened to find the entrance to the parking area on the other side of the Astronaut Hall of Fame. After scouting out areas to view the launch we went inside one of the air conditioned museum buildings to escape the heat. There we saw artifacts from the first space missions in the 1960's. Those space capsules the men were in were so small! The outsides of the capsules looked like they had been scorched in a furnace.

About ten minutes before launch we went back outside. We watched and listened to NASA TV on a big screen. This wasn't a rehearsed presentation; it was live audio from the control room with video from both inside and outside the shuttle launch area. I thought about when I was a kid watching the moon landings on tv, and how exciting it is that we're finally going to go back to the moon. The shuttle missions from now until 2010 will be focused on completing the International Space Station. By 2010 the current shuttles will be retired and a new program will begin to send people back to the moon to set up a base.

There was much anticipation in the air as a countdown from 5 began, and the crowd hushed to join in the counting. "5...4..3..2..1...marks of the end of the 9 minute hold. Nine minutes to go before launch." The crowd moaned in disappointment, then we all laughed. Nine minutes later the launch countdown started from 10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1...and yeah!

The shuttle appeared from behind a telephone pole in my field of view. Even though we were a few miles further away than the launch of STS-117, the shuttle and the flame behind it actually looked larger. The photos don't do it justice. It was so thrilling to hear the crackle and roar of the lift-off.

The crowd leaving the Astronaut Hall of Fame right after the launch.

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