Coast to Coast: Lights Out

Click here to watch the video of the STS-130 Endeavour launch. Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection are required.

STS-130, the final night Space Shuttle launch, took off at 4:14 AM EST today. As with other launches since we moved here last June, I videotaped this one for you folks in California and elsewhere.

With the Shuttle program scheduled to retire by the end of 2010, this is the last night launch on the calendar. I filmed STS-128, the last night launch, from Titusville across the Indian River from the launch pad. (Click here to watch the STS-128 night launch video.) With so few launches left, and this being the last night launch, the crowds at the best viewing points are huge now so I decided to film STS-130 from our driveway.

With both launches, you’ll see the amazing sunburst effect. Out of total darkness materializes this small little sun that rises into the air. Within a few minutes, it’s just one star of many on the horizon.

As you watch both videos, two minutes into the launch look for a couple of red dots falling away from the Shuttle. Those are the white solid rocket boosters falling away from the orbiter. They land in the Atlantic Ocean and are towed back to Cape Canaveral for reuse.

A reminder that sound travels much more slowly than light, which is why you don’t hear the roar of the Shuttle engines until nearly a minute after launch. We’re about ten miles southwest of the launch pad.

The NASA TV channel is on the local cable station. A minute or two before launch last night, the neighborhood doors opened and folks stepped outside to watch. I’m amazed by the people who don’t step outside to witness history. Manned or unmanned, every launch I see people who go about their business and not bother to stop and watch. To me, there’s not much more important than watching the future begin.

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