Upon arriving in Florida for our Disney vacation, we realized that the shuttle was going to launch the day before we went home. What timing! My Dad and I have always wanted to see it launch but have never been nearby at the right time. Sounded like a perfect chance.
So we woke up and headed out of Orlando just after 9 AM. I did some research the night before and found out that the best view that you can get without a NASA pass was in Titusville, Florida. So we headed over there. It was about 60 miles due east.
On the coast in Titusville, there is a place called Space View Park. We hadn’t seen any additional traffic the entire way over. Only when we got to the park, we saw a few hundred cars. I don’t think the launch draws as many people as it used to but the fans were there none the less.
Herb and I sat on the grass and listened to the various radios that were broadcasting the launch chatter on AM radio. At this point, we are about 10 miles straight across the water from the launch complex. Nothing to block your view, but far enough that you have to use a lens or something to make out the features of the shuttle. Else it just looks like a blob over there.
It was to launch at 11:38:20 and absolutely nothing visual happends before that instant. Kinda of a boring wait. Then all of a sudden you see flames and its off the ground!
The crowd cheered as the shuttle raised through the clouds.
We sat there nearly 45 seconds after the launch in near silence. It was almost too long. It was getting weird then suddenly the roar of the engines could be heard. The delay was so pronounced but the rumble came and the crowd cheered.
The rocket boosters were dropped and the flames went dim as the shuttle headed out across the ocean. I think I read that they would be in space in about 8 minutes after launch. Herb was noting that they would be around the world once before we made it back to Orlando.
The launch was definitely something that I was glad to have seen but it didn’t leave me in awe as much as I had expected. Being 10 miles out, you don’t feel the rumble in your chest. I suppose you have to be on the Kennedy Space Center grounds for that. But given, they might not be flying shuttles 2 years from now, it was fun to experience this generation of space flight launches for once.