Saturday, November 15, 2008

Night Launch

I know this is a gardening blog, but it's my gardening blog so I give myself the right to go completely off-topic should the mood strike me. Since I'm mood stricken right now, I thought I'd post some photos of last night's space shuttle launch…after all, we were standing next to our garden when we watched it, so I'm calling it garden related.

The Space Shuttle Endeavor lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center at 7:55 p.m. on November 14th. Our family is famous for forgetting to watch shuttle launches, but honestly, when you live in Florida it is easy to forget since it's a way of life for us. We were determined not to forget last night's launch because there is just something special about a night launch. No matter how many launches you see, it's always just an amazing moment when you first peer out of the backyard and see the glow of the burners and know that seven very gutsy astronauts are hurtling toward space at about 18,000 mph.

Ever since I was a kid and I stood outside of my school with my class watching the Challenger take off with teacher Christa McAullife on board and it blew up, I always get a bit nervous watching a shuttle take off. I always try to imagine how scary it must be for the astronauts inside and I think of how odd it is that most of the country is inside watching Wheel of Fortune while this amazing thing is happening right outside of my window.

We had the boys dressed in their PJs ready for bed and we all walked out into the backyard and looked East.
The moon was hidden behind the clouds at first and it was a very dark night We're very close to the coast so we always get a great view. It's much harder to find the shuttle in the daytime, especially if there are low clouds. But a night launch is totally different. You stand there in the darkness waiting for the glow and then it happens - a bright orange glow lights up the sky starting at the horizon and quickly filling the night. If you're inside you can see the orange glow light up your windows. Photos really do not do it justice. We were lucky enough to have a full moon, which made for a very beautiful night.
The bright orange glow sort of arcs up into the sky and the clouds get really bright and you focus on the bright yellow glow of the shuttle. If the wind is blowing in the right direction, you can hear the rumble of the rockets. Last night we heard someone blaring Elton John's "Rocket Man" from some speakers at a party up the street. No matter where you are you always hear people clapping. There is something so spectacular about it that you feel the need to clap or cheer when you first see it over the horizon. But soon after you hear a quiet silence as people old enough to remember the Challenger suck in a collective nervous breath in the hopes that nothing will go wrong. As you watch, the bright white plume of smoke off the shuttle's tail follows the ball of fire as it lifts up into the sky.
It's impossible to photograph from a home camera, but when the shuttle gets quite high in the sky you can watch the solid rocket boosters separate from the shuttle and fall back to the Earth. The shuttle eventually becomes a tiny white speck and you're left watching what's left of the smoke trail fading in the night sky. Eventually the sky darkens again and it's all over. Then we all raced back inside and hit rewind on the TV and watched it all over again.
I love that our boys can experience this. One day when they're old and grey they'll be able to tell their grandchildren about watching the space shuttle take off right from their own back yard. I'm sure space shuttles will be obsolete old-fashioned pictures in a history book by then - just like the rockets from the 1960s are to us now. But I'm glad they get to experience this part of history first-hand with Farmer B and I at their side.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is very cool...thank you for going OT with this...


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