Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Launch Day

I know that I am repeating myself when I say this but there is no word in the English language that describes what I experienced today. I say experienced because you don’t watch a space shuttle launch, you experience it. I actually think it is more of a woo hoo kind of sound that I can’t spell but it is a cross between a Homer Simpson woo hoo a deep belly laugh. Today was a whirlwind that ended way too quickly. I will try to tell everything that happened to the best of my memory, I’m sure there will be updates later because it is 10:30 and I am basically running on 8 hours of sleep over the last two days and adrenaline.

We met up with our group today at about 3:00. We were running a little behind but we loaded up and headed to the cape. It was a little scary because Chuck our guide gave us a big safety briefing. Security was incredible. They actually checked our bus as it left Kennedy space center to come pick us up and they actually put stickers over the storage bins on the bus to show they had been searched. We saw at least four Blackhawk helicoptors flying over and Chuck told us that there were special forces in the swamps.

Once we got close to Kennedy Space Center, there were people everywhere, along the roads, in boats, everywhere. We were at the Saturn V center which has a huge set of bleachers next to it and three count down clocks. When we first got there, we took pictures with the count down clock. You can’t really see it but the launch pad is in the background.

We had about two hours before the launch so we went into the Saturn V center and started looking around. We met so many cool people. The first person that we saw Mark Fossom, and astronaut. We talked to him and got some pictures, then we saw Suri Williams. She was the astronaut that just broke the record for the longest stay in space. She was on the space station for 192 days. She was really cool and talked to us for a while. Next we saw Raymond Simon, the Deputy Secretary of Education. He was really cool and talked to us for quite a while. When we got ready to walk off, he stopped us and said he wanted to give us a business card. When he handed them to us he said, and I’m not joking about this, “If you guys are ever in Washington D.C. and need bail money, give me a call.” The last person that we talked to was Jim Kennedy, the former director of Kennedy Space Center. He was really cool and talked to us for probably 10 minutes.

When we got to about 45 minutes before launch we went out to scope out a spot to watch. We knew we didn’t want to watch from the bleachers so we walked down to the very front of a little grassy area right next to the water and probably as close as we could get to the launch pad from where we were. Then the waiting game began. The clock stopped at 9 minutes. Finally, they started the countdown. At 5 minutes to go they sang the national anthem. (I will be really honest with you, as I set here in traffic - stopped on the highway 4 hours after the launch – that I am getting choked up writing this) When they got done with that I started getting really excited. I had two audio recorders that I started, then I turned on my camera and video camera. I wanted to take a couple pictures but mainly watch the launch. I set my camera to take three pictures in a row. I got one awesome one. Then I put the camera down and watched the launch. I held the video camera and it may or may not have been on the shuttle, I wasn’t watching the camera.

The steam started rolling out and the shuttle climbed up sooo slowly. It really looked like it was in slow motion. When you first saw the smoke and the shuttle, it was completely silent. Then once the shuttle was a good way off the launch pad, you started to hear it. Then about 20 seconds later you started to feel it. The ground vibrated under your feet. It was not nearly as intense as I thought it would be at that point. I was surprised. Then, when the shuttle got up to about three miles, the boosters were turned in a way that they faced back to us. Then everything started shaking. You could feel it all though your body. This is the part that watching it on TV just does not do justice to. The sights, the sounds, and the feelings made this an absolute highlight of my life. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I have a tear rolling down my cheek now as I write this and I have absolutely no idea how I will ever be able to tell my students about this without crying. But you know what, I don’t care. That is how powerful this was.

I also thought of my dad a lot today. He was the one that got me interested in space. When I was in second grade I got a book order and ordered a poster of the space shuttle. When it came in we went and made a picture frame for it. It hung in my room for years and to this day it still hangs in my parents’ house. So, thanks Dad!

One of the things that we have all been talking about and that is that we are all completely ready to start school. This was unbelievable. I cannot wait to tell the stories, show the pictures, and relate this to my kids.

The last thought for tonight was that as we pulled into dinner 2 hours after the launch, you could still see the trail in the sky. It was all spread out and kind of glowing from the setting sun. What a perfect ending to an amazing day.


Anonymous said...

I get tears and goosebumps just reading your commentary of the launch. Wow, what an experience it must have been! I can't wait to hear it all in person! Your class is so lucky to have a teacher who can relay all of these experiences!

Anonymous said...

My mom told me that you were out that launch, it must of been cool. Me and my dad we're watching it on live Tv.The pictures look awesome and the web page looks nice.

former student,
Brandyn M.