Go, baby, go

STS-130 lifted off at 4:14AM on 8 February 2010. The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor was strapped in for a second launch attempt after the previous morning’s attempt had been scrubbed for a low cloud ceiling. A few miles away, on a much emptier and slightly warmer causeway, the space tweeps gathered once again to see Endeavor lift into the sky.

The weather forecast was red for most of the night. Weather forecasters were, however, cautiously optimistic. We cheered as the forecast turned to green when the clouds broke up just before 4AM.

As the launch countdown came out of a hold and began counting down from the 9 minute mark, we raced to get our cameras, and ourselves, ready for the Big Moment. My little camera sat on a gorillapod, wrapped around a folding chair, ready for video. Aleya took some last video of us bouncing excitedly, and the guys and gals with fancy cameras got their last settings set. Tweets were sent, and we began the countdown. New Years Eve has nothing on this countdown!

At ignition start, the little white dot with the barely resolvable wings that we had been gazing at for two nights began to flare up. A cloud of smoke billowed up in front as the tiny, distant rocket began its ride up a column of fire into the sky. We screamed our little heads off. I swore I could feel the heat on my face, but maybe that was just the rush of excitement.

Unlike in all the pictures, the flames burned a bright yellow. We felt the rumble of takeoff and heard the crackling like fireworks. This was it. As the shuttle curved to our right, six astronauts were being launched into orbit.

With a cloud of smoke left behind, Endeavor became a bright star, fading slowly as it set off for the International Space Station. I almost missed the rapid brightening as the solid rocket boosters separated, as I was too busy hugging people and making sure I didn’t lose my camera. I finally started to cry, like I do for every launch I watch on tv. Only it wasn’t a quiet tear to myself, but a laughing cry! There was no time, as the voice over the speakers urged us to get away from the causeway as an acid rain cloud was on its way, and we had trekked pretty far from the car. I got my things, got back on Twitter, and kept hugging more Space Tweeps on the way.

This was my first live launch, and one of the last launches of the space shuttle program. I know that NASA’s manned spaceflight program is having a rough time, and I don’t know what to say about that. I am, however, optimistic that we’ll be reaching further and further away from our home planet, even if progress seems slow at the moment. It’s just part of our nature.

My launch video:

Aleya’s FANTASTIC video of the SDOisGO crew at both nights… plus the launch itself. With cool tunes!

4 thoughts on “LIFTOFF!

  1. Thrilling account! I’m glad you got to have the experience, and you’re sticking around for SDO and hope that works out just as well!

    I had causeway tickets for STS-119 Discovery back in Feb. ’09 but it got delayed over a month due to the FCV problem, so I didn’t get to see it launch, just up close on the pad while visiting KSC. By luck I happened to be in St. Pete, FL on vacation when STS-128 Discovery launched in Aug. ’09 at midnight. Even from across the state it was a fantastic view, lighting up the eastern horizon and watching it curve off into orbit!

    I’m going to be sure with each of the following missions to try and get front-row seats for a launch. Coming from Chicago requires a bit more planning, but I’m going to try everything humanly possible! Thanks for sharing your experience!

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