Saturday, 15 November 2008

Mission Home Improvement - STS-126

It was truly spectacular!

NASA Mission STS-126 "Endeavour" carrying seven astronauts lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Friday evening right on time at 7:55pm. It's heading to the International Space Station to make a few improvements to make life easier for the occupants.

And we were there to witness it! WOW!

The night before the launch, The Space Cadet spent about an hour looking at Google Earth, planning the best vantage point to see the launch. He decided Hwy 1 in Titusville, so we headed south on Friday afternoon. People and cars were everywhere, tremendous excitement in the air. We asked a group of tough looking bikers the best place and they said "Right here... just park and we'll show you where to go".

They were right, it was a bit of vacant grassland at the back of Wendy's Burgers, about 200 people had already assembled with chairs, radios, TVs, cameras, telescopes, children, etc., with a clear view across the Inland Waterway towards the launch gantry, which was lit up like a Christmas tree. You couldn't miss it.

We scrambled over a rusty fence and joined a group (including the bikers) sitting along the river bank. We had over an hour to wait, but time passed quickly, with so many people to talk to. After all, everyone was there for the same reason.

And as we waited, a gorgeous full moon rose into the clear sky.

Finally, the countdown... five... four... three... through my binoculars I could see smoke or steam billowing up... two... one... a huge burst of orange flame lit up the sky and the rocket started lifting into the night. I could hardly breathe. What an incredible sight. And a few seconds later the sound of the rocket reached us across the water... a huge rumbling boom, such power!

Cheers, applause, lots of whooping and hollering, people were celebrating a successful launch.

I followed the rocket with the binoculars as far as I could. I could even see the red hot booster rockets fall towards the sea. Incredible to think that seven human beings were sitting on top of that fiery rocket, trusting their lives to technology (and perhaps keeping their fingers crossed, knocking on wood, etc.).

Speed reached 1,000mph in just a few seconds.
It's going 1,500mph within 5 miles from the launch.
By the time it's gone 73 miles, the speed is 4,000mph.
By the time it reaches 10,000mph, it's 64 miles up.
By the time it reaches 16,000mph, it's 66 miles up, and has travelled 760 miles.

Space shuttle vapour trail lit up by a beautiful full moon.
What a sight.
First pic borrowed from NASA web site, other pics taken by The Space Cadet.


  1. wonderful photos, shammy and space cadet! i especially loved the ones with the moon and the vapor trail. incredible. and you got to be there to see it with your very eyes!! re bikers looking tough...i think it's the fashion statements--the helmets, the long hair, the leatherwear. the bikers i know personally are incredibly sweet and smart. and yes, they really ARE tough, i think, to ride those things in traffic.

  2. I'm so JEALOUS!!! That's so amazing, those photos w/ the moon are incredible! Such a great story. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid.

  3. Well how about that! We saw the launch of Endeavour STS-72 on Jan 10, 1996 from the same place as you. I wrote a post about it in Feb on this year. Read here.

  4. Wow! Just reading your entry was so exciting! I can imagine how it was BEING there. Awsome! Incredible picts!

  5. How nice that you were able to see the launch. I used to take my class outside on days when there was a launch. We could see the trail of the shuttle as it went up.

    I'm just about directly across the state from Cape Canaveral, and I've watched the night launches as well. I forgot about Fridays, though.

  6. Wonderful post! The pictures are fantastic and your writing equally exciting! I felt as though I was there:)

  7. Awesome, totally awesome. Terrific photos and what an adventure.
    The moon glow is amazing. Thanks for sharing these with us.
    I wish I was there to see it too.

  8. i'm a little bit jealous. i like astronauts and space.

  9. What an experience it must have been to watch that. The pictures are really good.

  10. Thanks so much for sharing your evening (it was raining where I live) and more important, giving me the idea to add a post about Home Improvements in Space. I own a handyman business. I think I had more fun with this post than any other I've written.

  11. How wonderful, what an experience. Green with envy here. We so rarely hear of the space shuttle launches over in the UK nowadays. Such a common practise until things go wrong!
    Fabulous pics!

  12. That's something I'd love to see just once.

  13. Amazing experience for you. That's something that will absolutely, never, ever get old. Looks like the perfect night for the launch.

  14. What an incredible experience of a lifetime. Space Cadet took some fine photos.. just amazing.

  15. I'm so impressed. Heck, I'm even still impressed by the fact that there you two are sitting in Florida and being able to share your experiences with the rest of the world through the internet!
    By the way it's snowing up here in Stouffville.


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