Last week, on the spur of the moment, we drove up to the Space Coast to watch the night launch of the Shuttle Endeavour for mission STS-126. Even though both Josh and I have lived in Florida for pretty much our entire lives, we had never gone to a launch. It was AWESOME! The tickets to the Kennedy Space Center viewing area were sold out, so we went to Titusville, sat on the banks of the Indian River, and had an unobstructed view of the launch pad. I think it was one of the most beautiful things...watching the shuttle fire up and head over the full moon, all the while reflecting in the river. The shuttle travels about 2000 miles per minute (I think)! Our video and pictures don't really capture the experience. Instead of seeing the actual shuttle lifting off(which we saw), the video just shows a glowing fireball. The pictures aren't great either. There are some awesome pictures and videos of the launch on NASA's website http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/sts126/multimedia/gallery/gallery-index.html
And, if you want to listen to communications during the current mission, just look on the left hand side of the site and under "Watch NASA TV" click on › Shuttle & Station Communications and Commentary (may be silent at times). I've been listening as I try to study for my distance learning class. Right now, the astronauts are saying good morning to all of these different stations...Houston, Huntsville, and now Munich. It's so cool! Now they're talking about a spider. Apparently there's a spider at the international space station and it just created a symmetrical web. I'm not sure, but I think they're observing how well the spider adapts to space.
So here's our video of the launch
Here are some of our pictures. Josh also took some ones of the shuttle ascending, but I can't find his camera. I'll try to post those later. This picture is looking at Kennedy Space Center from across the Indian River. Endeavour's Launch Pad (39A) is the small white light with the beams shooting from it.
Here's a close up (well, closer up) of the launch pad.
This next one is 30 seconds after lift off. It was so dark I had to go completely manual with my camera. I had the shutter set to 30 seconds, which worked great with the first 2 pictures, but not so much with this one :-) I had NO IDEA how bright it would get after lift off. The sky literally went from night to day.
And finally, here's a picture of the smoke trail drifting in front of the full moon.
It was an incredible experience and there will only be 9 more shuttle launches...ever!!!