Space Travel

Thursday 7th December


Thursday we took a chance and drove 40mins north to the Kennedy Space centre. Unsure that it would be open to the public on a launch day we thought we’d go anyway, fortunately it was open…amazingly we were allowed to stay for the launch. We couldn’t believe our luck. As we did the tour (along with about 30,000 others) the excitement began to grow. The only part of the tour that was excluded was the launch pads. The surroundings, the history, reliving events that we had seen on TV at home, our generations’ history I suppose, was the stuff of bristling hair on the back of the neck. For Malc it was lump in the throat stuff.

Yes, the lump in the throat stayed as the countdown began with two hours to go. To cut a long story short (not like me I know) at 5 minutes the launch was put on hold. There was a 4 minute launch window so the countdown had to begin again within that 4. Well, as you know, it didn’t go, so we did! – back home but with our tickets re-validated to return for the next schedule of Saturday’s 8:47pm launch.

Saturday afternoon came round very quickly and we made it back to join the crowds at KSC to “hope” again for that magic window of favourable weather at the right time for the 116th shuttle launch, yes, that many! Well it has been 25 years. After walking around looking at a few things we missed on Thursday we set up camp on a picnic bench suitably placed in line with the big screen behind which the shuttle stood waiting just about 5miles away. Let it be said there was only 4 hours to go! Hey, how many times have you seen a rocket launch from within the launch complex?

5 minutes to go and they continued the countdown – we passed Thursday’s hold. 3 minutes, two, one then on to every schoolboys “join in” with the 10, 9, 8, … We got a lift off, the sky lit up with a “midnight sun” then the bright glow of the shuttle’s engines rose into the sky. I couldn’t believe I was actually there. The ground didn’t move as the air was “rattled” the sky was still lit up as the trail became drawn in the sky as a black streak. At one point the shuttle disappeared behind its own smoke trail then it was on as a bright speck over the horizon. Seven or eight minutes in, 14000 miles per hour and still accelerating – the max speed is around 17500 mph. I am just in awe of it all, oh yes, Betsy said she enjoyed it too! – Sweet dreams tonight…

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