nakki: (Space - STS 116 "Dreams")
[personal profile] nakki
The launch was today. It was beautiful and perfect.

The auditorium in building 2 is always open for launches so that employees can watch the launch on the big screen. I got there two hours early (the launch was at 14:38:04) and sat in the very front row, dead center. A couple of interns I recognized sat near me, but I like to view launches by myself, without others distracting me.

The countdown was pure poetry. It paused at the standard hold time of T-9:00 and smoothly started back up soon after. The sky was clear without a single cloud. The winds were less than 10mph. at T-0:03 they ignored the standard hold and pushed on ahead. The water was poured on the platform, sparks were used to ignite the extra Nitrogen, and then the main engines were ignited. You could see the Twang as the shuttle tilted back and then back up into the vertical position, and then the SRB’s were lit and of it shot. People clapped and whistled and yelled. Everyone got silent again as we waited for the shuttle to complete the roll and accelerate passed the sound barrier.

And then the SRB’s were separating, once again people cheered and yelled and whistled. Coming up on T+8:00 the camera view changed from one on the ground to the camera mounted on the shuttle ET. Everyone got silent as you watched the belly of the orbiter and the earth turning slowly at the side of the picture. When the external tank disengaged and fell away people cheered one final time and then started filtering out of the room.

I continued to sit there, joined by two other employees, as the replays began. The absolute awe I felt the first was replaced with geekery as I noted the steps of the launch and went through the space camp checklist for launch in my head (grinning every time I realized how ridiculous it is for me to have it so perfectly memorized after all these years). Finally the camera POV from the ET was replayed and I found myself whispering under my breath the words to High Flight.

I don’t believe there is a god, but I do believe that there are some things so big that to personify them is the only way we are capable of wrapping our minds around them. That’s why the last line of High Flight just strikes me as so true.
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December 2011

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