Having been postponed twice before, this evening’s launch of the Space Shuttle’s STS-119 mission was perfect.
As launch time arrived, the sun had just gone down, but it was still light outside, and the sky was perfectly clear and turning turquoise as the light began to fade.
I was all ready for the launch to begin, out on the balcony of my 7th floor condo with my laptop set to NASA. The internet feed on the NASA site must run between 20-30 seconds behind real time, so as soon as the countdown clock reached THREE – TWO – ONE – you could see the red glow, really stretching out against the turquoise sky. This is as compared to later night flights where you can see a dimmer glow and a fainter white trail. This time the trail was amazing, starting off reddish purple where the sun was shining on it, then lightening to pure white, almost luminous as the sun shone fully on it. As the boosters ignited just before separation, using the binoculars you could see the three engines , and then after separation the shuttle dimmed to become like a small bright shooting star as it headed off over the coast, until it finally disappeared out of sight three or four minutes later.
The sun remained shining on the trail, which continued to rise in the clear blue evening sky, until finally there was a pinkish cloud and a spectacular white one next to it, the sunlight making it look almost eerie and sending shivers down my back.
Altogether the best launch I have seen from home, and not bad for 200 miles away. I was just sad I didn’t have my camera or camcorder, since Debbie has those in England.
I live on the 7th floor of a condominium block, with a balcony that looks northeast, and although I live almost 200 miles south of Cape Canaveral, as long as the sky is clear and it is an evening or night launch, it is possible to see this from home.
Debbie and I were fortunate enough to see the launch of STS-120 from Titusville on 23rd October 2007, which is only 12 miles from the launchpad, and the closest viewing point, unless you are fortunate to be one of the 2,000 people who get to watch from the causeway at Kennedy Space Center, but although I tried for tickets, they sold out online in under two minutes.
I took hundreds of pictures of that launch, here are a few so you can get a glimpse of that wonderful day.