I Watched a Space Shuttle Launch

I went to Cape Canaveral with a few friends. We figure there are only a few more shuttle launches left and the timing worked out well where we could take off a few days and be able to wait it out of there we any delays. As it turned out, there were several, but we were very happy that we stuck it out.

We had a radio scanner to listen to the launch control, which is a good thing because if you don’t hear the countdown you might miss it. You don’t really hear the shuttle when it takes off because it takes sound some time to travel from the launch pad to you. In addition, the shuttle was surprisingly quiet, maybe as loud as a 747 or an F-14, but not as loud as a lot of other military jets. Building implosions are similarly not-loud.

It would be very difficult to make a launch photograph that truly shows the launch as we saw it. The flame from the engines was intensely bright, more than a welder or a magnesium flare but less than the sun. It was actually hard to look at because it was so bright. Some people had trouble looking at it, even with sunglasses. Some of our cameras produced almost night looking images in order to balacne the brightness. The flames lit up the smoke plumes.

The shuttle quickly becomes just a dot and it is difficult to see many of the events after 2 minutes. I could barely see the solid rocket boosters eject and deploy their parachutes. I could not follow them all the way to the ground. For several minutes, the shuttle was just a bright star in the daytime before it finally dissipated.

The smoke plume left at the launch pad was white on the outside but had an orange cast inside. Apparently, the SRB smoke reflects white but transmits orange.

On the delayed launch days we toured Kennedy Space Center, saw the IMAX movies, and hung out on Cocoa Beach.

Even though the space center is geared more toward kids, I did really enjoy it. Actually, I think I enjoyed the other visitors the most. I’ve always been a space buff and it was neat to be surrounded by people who shared that interest. KSC does allow you pretty close to a lot of stuff and has lots of toys to share. Everyone I know who works with NASA seems to really enjoy it and there is palpable sense of family.

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