Back in April, I traveled to Kennedy Space Center to watch STS-131 launch. I am so happy that I had the chance to do this before the Space Shuttle Program ends with STS-134. The flight, as all but one since the Columbia disaster have been, visited the International Space Station. It carried a Multi-Purpose logistics module stocked with supplies and experiments to be conducted on orbit. The flight carried seven astronauts and was a tremendous success. The launch was originally scheduled for March, but was delayed until April.
My trip out there was a whirlwind. Because I used frequent flier miles for my ticket, I flew OAK-SEA-MCO, which made for a long launch day… I woke up at 0800 EDT on Sunday and didn’t go to sleep until 1100 EDT on Monday. I didn’t feel at all tired until after the launch…
Going to a space shuttle launch was a dream come true for me. It lived up to my expectations and to the hype.
From my location on the causeway, there was nothing but 6.5 miles between the shuttle and me. It was a great angle to view the stack, with no interference from the RSS. Seeing the Orbiter, SRBs, and ET sitting there bathed in Zenon light was a truly awe inspiring sight. It was completely dark except for the pad and the shuttle. It was my first view of a shuttle ever at it was perfect. There was nothing in my field of view EXCEPT the shuttle. Granted, I would have rather have been a little closer, but such were the logistics of the trip.
I was on an early bus, so I ended up at the rope line. I set up my tripod and put the long lens on the camera with the doubler. I had about 2 hours before the launch. It took some time before I could get the camera and lens working properly. After getting the camera set up, I was able to snap some shots. You can see them on my flickr page along with the post launch photos.
It was amazing to be there, surrounded by space geeks, able to keep up a conversation using almost all acronyms from SRB to ET, SSME to MECO. We could all talk about our memories of previous shuttle launches… We took a collective breath at the “Go at Throttle Up” call, we prayed for a successful launch. We cheered at launch, but cheered even louder at MECO.
I have always been interested in space, I’ve always cheered for the space program and what it has done for our nation. Seeing the STS-131 changed that for me. It gave me the personal experience with the space program that can never be taken away. It stoked a fire in me that I know is shared by thousands, if not millions of people who work in, follow, and cherish the space program on a daily basis.
I am grateful beyond words for that!