I stayed up Monday night/Tues am so I could run outside and see the night launch of the Shuttle Endeavor. I had been outside earlier and saw the clouds had obscured the stars but I was hopeful the clouds may have cleared a LITTLE so I could see it. Nope, completely blanketed sky. Sigh. I had even put NEW batteries in my power-hungry camera.
But I can tell you about a previous night shuttle launch of the Atlantis I saw in 1985…Back in the olden days before everyone had a computer at home. We did have gasoline powered cars, and direct dial long distance, but our music came in either large black discs called an “LP,” or a small tape called “Cassette.” We were moving on from 8-tracks, but many still had those at home or in their cars.
I was living in a community an hour or so south of The Cape and was out with some buddies visiting another friend. We were crossing the Indian River about the time for the launch so I convinced everyone to stop. There was a small park on the causeway and we walked up on the bridge for a clear view of the river to the north. The shuttle went off as expected and it was a thrilling sight. First the sky glowed, and the river too, reflecting the light. Then we could see the rockets power the shuttle so slowly at first and then suddenly springing into the sky. It was so clear that we were able to watch the separation of the rockets from the shuttle – well, at least the red dots falling away from another rocket exhaust flare.
This is the mission we saw, STS 61B
My friends were happy to humor me by stopping but were excited when the launch turned out to be so interesting!
Starting with the first rocket launches from Cape Canaveral, our parents always made sure we watched history being made. We were crouched in front of the black and white TV to watch the ignition and take off from the pad, running outside at the right point and searching the sky for the tell-tale red flare then watching until it blinked out of sight. It was so exciting, Americans were going into space! I was enthralled. If you asked me back then what I wanted to “be” as an adult, I would reply “a space technician.” I wanted to be one of the engineers sitting in mission control, confidently pushing buttons and being part of the team creating such marvelous adventure.
No, I didn’t end up as a space technician, but have retained a life-long (so far) interest in things space, science, ecology, and technology. So many interests!
We always watched CBS and Walter Conkrite was the narrator of this adventure. No one else could relay the story and explain with excitement the complexity quite as well as he did. I still miss him on the evening news…
Remember a few years ago when John Glenn was a crew member on one of the shuttles? I no longer live on the east coast but I can still see the glow of the rockets for shuttle launches (and the vapor trails the day of the terrible Challenger disaster). That Saturday I sat in the car, listening to the radio and watching the sky to see him launched into space-again! The few moments of red glow reminded me of running for the back door, leaping over the steps and dodging sandspurs in our bare feet. Then I headed for home and Saturday chores.