Friday, July 8, 2011

Atlantis Airborne

from: Daytona Beach, FL 32114, USA

Space Shuttle Atlantis has blasted off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center just a few minutes ago on its final launch! The weather around here wasn't all that great - too many clouds and the possibility of continuing storms - but the weather around Titusville was good enough that, with only a minor delay, the shuttle launched. I imagine the million or so people who came to see it would have preferred a clearer sky, but I doubt any of them regret their cross-country trips to witness this historic event. It was a very emotional moment for a lot of people.

I didn't go down there, nor did I head over to the beach. When you watch it on TV, you get the best views and you get to see the view FROM the shuttle! Having attended several launches from multiple locations, I know how awesome it is to watch a launch without benefit of the TV, even when the clouds swallow it immediately. If you're close enough to see it, you're also close enough to feel it. You'll also hear it, although if you're far away, it will take a while for the sound to reach you, and hopefully you're not in a loud place.

Up close, it's the biggest blowtorch you've ever seen. You can FEEL the heat from the engines, even from several miles away. (I'll swear up and down that you can feel it from 50 miles away!) Then comes the rumble, loud enough to overwhelm any other sounds.

As the shuttle climbs on a pillar of fire, disappearing far faster than you can really imagine, that sound slowly fades, but you can still feel it pulsing the air. It takes only about two minutes before that gigantic burst of light is so far away that you can't see it any more, and the world resumes moving.

If you're farther away, you can watch the launch, and it's incredible to watch it move across the sky so rapidly, but then when the sound reaches you, it's like experiencing it a second time.

But, no more will you be able to experience this. Maybe in the future there will be a replacement vehicle, but in the meantime, we will have to tide ourselves over with smaller rockets.

Good luck, Atlantis crew!


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