On many of these trips, I'm the guy holding the microphones. That means no matter what happens, no matter what anybody else says, I have to stay quiet. Usually, that's not a problem. But this time, when Space Shuttle Endeavour lifted off and rocketed through a halo of clouds in the night, keeping my mouth shut was nearly impossible. The beauty and power were indescribable, and as the shuttle streaked into orbit, I found myself silently mouthing, "Wow, wow, wow" over and over.
This was the first time I'd ever seen a shuttle launch in person. Heck, this was the first time I'd been to Florida. Truthfully, I was one of those people who felt indifferent about the shuttle program. I was seven when Challenger exploded, and that felt pretty close, with a school teacher on board. But since then, I hadn't paid much attention to the missions. I realize now what I had ignored. A shuttle launch just might be the most controlled and over-planned event you could ever witness. It has serious purpose. But the other part is inescapable. It's enough to make strangers gather in Space View Park, stand shoulder to shoulder, and cheer as Endeavour breaks away from Earth. There was no jumbotron, no grinning pop culture icon stoking the crowd. Only pure amazement.
Here's a video of a previous night launch taken from Titusville, about 12 miles from the launch pad.