Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Night Launch...

Living in Florida affords me the opportunity to witness some truly beautiful moments.
This past Saturday evening was one.

There was a NASA shuttle launched from the Cape at 8:47 p.m.

Watching a shuttle launch in the daytime is undoubtedly impressive.
Seeing it when your world is wrapped in darkness, under cover of a starlit sky, is breathtaking.

My vantage point this time was a long, wooden dock that extended several yards into the Halifax River.

Looking southeast that night, everything was a shadow or a silhouette.
Expansive oak trees shared the riverbank with tall palm trees. Condominiums were sentries, higher than the trees.

Cars were parked along the edge of the road and in the small picnic area beside the river. People came in droves, from those cars, to gather as close to the river as possible, looking for an unobstructed skyward view.
We were lemming-like in our march to the edge.

Keeping track of the time and listening to portable radios, several in the crowd loudly announced the take-off.
You could feel everyone holding their breath.
The tension... anticipation... waiting for the white glow to be visible from some sixty miles south of us.

It took two or three minutes before the light began to show.
The crowd pointed as one and announced to all,
"There! There it is!" Applauding. Cheering. Whistling.
The brilliant white light crawled across the horizon before it began its upward mushrooming spread. Slowly.

The clouds began to glow.
From the bottom center of the sky-horizon
a white beacon emerged. The giant candle struggled upward, then leaned slightly east, toward our left... higher.
Ever. Slowly. Higher.
Half-way up our window view of the sky... the shuttle seemed to shift to a higher gear... moving steadily faster. Moving higher and faster, leaving a long, bright streak behind it.

It outran the mushroom glow.
It slid into the black velvet cover over earth.
The yellow fire from the boosters marked its progress upward. Until, as star-tiny specs, they were released and fell softly.
Fading sparklers.

Some of us lingered.
Straining to see one more glimpse before turning away.
Wishing a safe journey to the brave souls travelling so far.

Wishing even harder, for a safe return home.

22 comments:

Mark said...

Awesome stuff. Wish I could have been there to see it.

And of course see you :-)

AspergantuS said...

Wonderful! Living in Florida, I have experienced several launches myself. You have captured the emotional strings attached to every launch.
Bon Voyage brave explorers of the unknown. God Speed, and a safe return home.

Jean said...

Mark - thank you... you would have loved the view... of the launch, anyway. :)


Mick - Thank you... I wish all Americans had the opportunity to see what we have seen.

Jessica said...

Beautifully written, dear.

Jean said...

Jessica - thank you and welcome back!

Jim - PRS said...

Never saw a launch live. Would love to. Maybe some day.

kdzu said...

I used to say I'd give my left arm to fly in that thing.
Now........I'd give the rest of my life.

Jean said...

Jim - I hope you can... you'd love it.


Larry - What an adventure it would be!

p.s. Blogger is not letting me comment on your blog anymore... don't think I have forgotten you!

Maricopa Mark said...

Come on Jean. I need a picture of you posted on the website. I'm pleading here as I type this on my knees (damned chair finally broke).

You'll always be "perky" too me :-)

Pweeeeze?

Sparrow said...

I'd love to see a launch live, though I think my heart would be in my throat the whole time! I'm glad I was able to see it through your eyes, Jean. Thank you. And Godspeed and safe home to the astronauts.

Gary said...

I think there must be lots of wonderful things about living in Florida. Especially for a gardener like me who lives in Texas.

Jean said...

Unit - I'll try tomorrow... but, I probably need tech help! (No perky shots... geez)

Sparrow - After witnessing the Challenger explode, every launch means holding my breath.

Gary - You'd probably think you were in Eden.

Valerie - Riding Solo said...

I just plain envy you.

I wanna go!

Rhea said...

That sounds amazing. I guess there are a lot more launches taking place than make it into the media.

Anonymous said...

... I have heard Floridians talk of night launches.... I want to see one before I check out..... definitely....

Eric

curmudgeon said...

I am indeed envious. I plan on making a trip out there one of these days to at least get a tour.

The odds of a 'go' launch during a scheduled trip there though, are - ready for this - astronomical.

Your weather evidently sucks when it comes to rocket launches.

Rantin' Ron said...

Well hell....I don't need to go witness a live launch now! Your description was better than anything I could have seen. I'd have probably been busy running my mouth and missed the whole damned thing!

Jean said...

Val - you would be psyched!

Rhea - well, it gets published quite a bit around here... we take it pretty seriously...:)

Eric - would love to read what you would write after seeing one.

Dave - "astronomical"... such a clever man! Actually, the weather can be tricky since they only have so much time to use the "window" they need for that particular launch.

Ron - Very kind of you, sir... but, I think you would still be impressed in person.

Bane said...

Beautiful.

Jean said...

Bane - thank you, dear man.

boneman said...

Yeah....probably the only way it could be prettier would be if, oh...I dunno....

YOU TOOK SOME PIX WITH YER NEW CAMERA!

....but, that's just me.

No, I'm just kiddin'. You've an attractive way about yer words (reckon I've said that all along) and your description here is no different. Here's hoping y'all find some takers in the Writer's book.
Hey, there ain't nothing like one day yer wonderin' how to afford a new car and a check comes at ya in the mail....

Jean said...

Berry - sadly, I have only used the camera once. And, I sure could use a new car. Thank you, dear, for spending your rarely-available time here.