Sunday, November 16, 2008

harmony at the shuttle

Hello all,
The following is my attempt at sharing with you one of the most memorable events of my life. Unfortunately Lew was back at the boat still dealing with stomach problems. But he had a clear sight of the launch from our deck. He's feeling a lot better today.

Endeavor lifts off!
After waiting for weeks and hoping that the weather would not delay the launch, thousands of people sat on beaches, in parks and on boats to watch one of the most spectacular pyrotechnic shows of all time. There were cars from virtually every state looking for space to park. By 3 PM, all along the waterfront of Titusville, west of Cape Canaveral, hundreds of people had staked out their area with deck chairs, coolers and blankets. Cars, SUVs and motorcycles were lining every available road near the Indian River. T-shirt vendors were selling out fast and you could get hot dogs and barbeque for a quick meal. This had to have been the tail gate picnic to beat all tail gate picnics. I wonder how many people were outdoors somewhere, watching. There are countless places all around the Kennedy Space Center area where people could gather.

Lew and I watched the event from different locations and these photos are from my digital camera. At about 6 PM I joined four other boat friends to sit on the banks of a small canal. The first photo shows the English students sitting in front of us, our "view" for almost two hours. A family from Denmark shared ground with the students. There were no radios nearby so we had no idea when the actual count-down started. However, at what must have been 7:55, there was a roar from the throng in Veteran’s Memorial Park, south of us.

The first photo of the launch is just a few small lights. In less time than it took to write that sentence, the sky was filling with the most spectacular bloom of white and golden light. While the next shots, and any I’ve seen in newspapers, show a round light, what we actually saw was more elongated. The launch rose up and up past the shrubs next to us and eventually curved to the north. It left a vapor trail that wafted into scallops in the evening winds, then disappeared entirely. The whole launch experience lasted about five minutes, maybe a little more. People hollered their celebration of the successful launch. We gaped open-mouthed at the enormity of the meaning of what we were seeing. There are people on that craft. They are simply going to work. Had the wind been toward us, we would have heard the blast and felt the rumble of the lift-off in our chests and in the ground.

Within minutes of the launch, everyone had picked up their belongings and was leaving. Having left my friends along the way, I walked the last few yards to Harmony in the dim light of the docks. Up in the sky, the vestiges of the vapor trail zig zagged their way across the almost full moon.

No comments: