Whenever I talk to my friends who live elsewhere and see their pictures of gorgeous snow-covered mountains or beautiful canyon scenes, I'm quick to complain that there isn't much to see in Florida. Once you've seen the beach, we're all about strip malls and swamps. But then it's time for another launch from the Cape and while the world watches on TV, we merely walk into the backyard to experience the whole thing live.
A launch looks completely different depending on the time of day. We've seen them all from night launches, to day launches to Saturn and Atlas rockets and, of course, last night's sunset launch. We even drove over to the coast once to see a launch close-up.
Sunset launches are great because the sun's rays reflect sunset colors in the smoke trail behind the shuttle. On a rare occasion, if it's a clear day and the wind is blowing the right way we can even hear the low rumble of rockets upon take-off.
At about 7:40 pm last night we all wandered into the back yard and looked East over our back fence. The boys were in their pajamas ready for bed and were more excited at staying up a few minutes later than usual than actually seeing the shuttle. At 7:43 pm the space shuttle Discovery lifted off with six astronauts on board on a mission to the international space station.
The first thing we see is a small white light appear low in the sky. It goes up and to the left and is easy to see by the large smoke trail behind it. After a few minutes you can clearly see the two solid rocket boosters seperate and descend to the earth. After that you can watch the shuttle getting smaller and smaller until it disappears into orbit.
(If you click on this photo to make it larger you can just see the SRBs falling away from the shuttle. It's the two white dots under the brighter dot)
Then we all go back inside and rewind the DVR to watch the shuttle life-off again on the TV. After that my little pajama-wearing boys head off to bed without realizing how lucky they are to witness this from their own back yard.