Epic poster by NASA....
The astronaut's families are treated to tours, mission briefings and free admission to the Kennedy Space Center the day before the launch. (IMAX!)On the day of the launch, huge tour buses brought us all out to Banana Creek, a viewing area 3 miles away from the launch pad. I imagine any space launch is a site to see, but we had the opportunity to see a night launch, schueduled for 7:55 on November 7, 2008.
Countdown clock at Banana Creek
Aaaand the launch...
My craptacular video does not serve the experience enough justice, especially in the sound department. I also obviously stopped paying attention to my camera about 20 seconds in, as you can see by the loss of a subject in the shot.
But basically, night turned to day and it was really really really loud. And so awesome.
Here's a photo from behind where we were standing from NASA's site
The pictures of the shuttle, such as this one, are taken by tons of cameras set up on a hill near the launch pad, set to automatically go off during the launch. Even at three miles away on Banana Creek, we could be hit with debris if something went wrong. And even when nothing has gone wrong, with strong enough winds, spectators have experienced acid rain! Luckily this launch went off without a (big) hitch.
Over the next eight minutes, everyone watches in anticipation as the shuttle completes its departure from the Earth's gravity. Five minutes into the flight, the shuttle drops its two solid rocket boosters. At the 8 minute mark they drop the external tank. And at this point the scary stuff is done and we can all go home... STS-126 was off to the International Space Station to perform maintenance and repairs, as well as install a toilet, a fridge, additional sleeping quarters, and a water filtration system. (Yes, the one that turns urine into drinking water)
I highly reccomend seeing a launch someday. You can buy tickets for $20 to view the launch from a place called the Causeway, which is six miles away from the launch pad. Or, just find a beach to sit on. Its awe-inspiring. Either way, NASA.gov has information on all of that stuff.The shuttle landed on Sunday at 4:25 in California, all crew safe and sound, back on earth. The landing was diverted from Florida due to storms and high winds. So, how do they get the huge shuttle back to the Kennedy Space Center, you ask? Well, space.com had the answer of course... just strap it to a 747!
this horrible awesome photoshop job also courtesty of NASA.. its worth a chuckle or two