Monday, April 5, 2010

Discovery's penultimate flight, along with its destination

Space shuttle Discovery blasted off early Monday, around 6:21 a.m., 48 minutes before sunrise. The weather was clear and still, and the orbiter's booming engines seemed louder than normal. I got to Space View Park in Titusville a little late, less than an hour before the launch, because I was working a day shift Monday. Instead of getting the usual prime viewing real estate along the river, I rudely pushed through the masses for the above view with people crowding a small pier. It's neat to see all the camera LCD screens. People care about this stuff. This exposure was 6 minutes, 19 seconds long.

About 20 minutes before the launch, Discovery's destination, the International Space Station, glinted in sunlight as it streaked across the sky, crossing in front of a crescent moon and flying over the lights from launch pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center. If you look at the horizon through the break in people's heads in the right corner of this image, you can see the Vehicle Assembly Building. This exposure was 63 seconds long.

Here's what an old point-and-shoot camera did while my DSLR was tied up with the time lapse. Pretty lousy.

The crowd thinned out a bit well after the launch, but Titusville was choked with thousands of people eager to see shuttle Discovery's second-to-last flight. It was the busiest launch-viewing event I've seen.

Unfortunately, people aren't allowed on this pier during the launch. There are too many spots where people can accidentally go swimming.

The contrails always produce interesting shapes and colors in the upper atmosphere.

It was one beautiful launch. Thanks, NASA.

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