yinshubackup: (sleepy roo)
Today, I went to the beach to hang out with Bonnie and other friends and family. We had a pretty great view of the shuttle launch, even though we were about... I dunno, somewhere between 30-50 miles north of it on the coast.
But it was almost like we were right there.

It was really cool: at T-9 minutes and counting, everyone on the beach (we were looking down from the condo balcony at them) began stopping whatever they were doing- playing in the surf, running around, tanning themselves, whatever- and stood facing the southern sky (towards Cape Canaveral). I mean, there were a lot of people out there too. But everyone just.... stopped, and turned and stood there, waiting with rapt attention, until we saw that bright orange glow and the huge cloud of smoke start billowing out on the horizon.

Of course we had the TV on, so we could see the countdown, and closeups of the launch pad, etc. I actually almost missed the beginning of it because I started seeing the liftoff on TV and, not expecting to see the actual shuttle until it was well above the horizon, I was just going to sit there and watch it "Lift Off" on the small screen. But then everyone was shouting and calling me out to the balcony- "You're missing it! Get out here!" And, omigosh, there it was- like a fireball still touching the waterline. We could see everything really well, right from the moment the thrusters were given full throttle.

Discovery lifted off just like a glowing angel, carving out a soaring arc from the southern horizon to the top of the sky's dome in the east, and disappeared into the atmosphere, leaving a gorgeous trail of smoke behind. The liftoff site looked like a mini-mushroom cloud, totally visible from where we were. Then a few minutes later came the series of shockwaves as the (now invisible) shuttle broke free of the atmosphere (breaking the sound barrier).
Then we could only see it on TV after that, and I watched until the fuel tank separated and fell away from the shuttle.

It was.... amazing.
I mean, the ocean is flat, so you really could see for miles and miles down along the beachline-horizon, plus I was on a 4th-floor balcony so the view was unobstructed. I really don't know if I would have gotten a better view if I'd been in Titusville (across the bay from the launch pad, where I went on Saturday to try and see it.)

It really almost made me cry; to think of all the people, all the effort, that earth goes through just to put 7 little humans into space. And yet we do it anyway. As silly and inefficient as it is, we try- and if there are advanced alien civilizations out there giggling at our first awkward baby steps, well, it's still a start. And it means so much to so many people- all those people on the beach, turning to stare- people really do care about this- even if it's only for a minute- it's like everyone watching sends a little piece of their hearts up in that shuttle, or a little prayer, or a little wish for good luck. I think that's why it's worth it. It is a hallmark of humanity that we have to try, regardless of the odds. And in trying to reach for the stars, we are all, in some small way, uplifted.
Godspeed, Discovery. Come back safe.

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yinshubackup

August 2010

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