Night to Day: The STS-130 Endeavor launch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is, as best as I could retell it, what I witnessed as I attended the STS-130 Endeavor launch on Monday, February 8th, 2010, at the Family & Invited Guests-Only viewing station outside the Saturn 5 building, also called Banana Creek.

Submitted: February 08, 2010

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Submitted: February 08, 2010

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The darkness was almost palpable, the sound of a Blackhawk helicopter thrumming in the air, and the conversations of dozens of excited fans buzzed around me. They spoke of their favorite astronauts, the launch about to take off, their families, an entire plethora of topics with one central, if distant, topic; the STS-130 mission, and the Endeavour space shuttle. I sat in the far right side, three rows up, at Banana Creek, the private family / invited guest viewing area for the shuttle launch. I leaned back, forcing myself not to shiver in the cold night air, watching the glow of the hundreds of lights surrounding the shuttle. Three minutes to launch. We'd just moments ago sang the Star Spangled Banner, and I sipped hot chocolate to ward away the cold that somehow wormed it's way through my jacket.

I was amazed; After the scrub yesterday, this time it was finally going to happen. The Endeavor was going to take off, with my mother's highschool friend Katheryn P. "Kay" Hire aboard. Kay was the one who invited the family to see the launch, and today was our last day down in Cocoa Beach. If it didn't launch today, we'd miss it. Around me sat friends of the Hire family, or of the other astronauts, who's names I didn't pay attention to. All I knew was that a family friend was taking off into space, and I was about to see a live night launch from around three miles away. Our tour guide told us it was 2.89 miles from the pad, and another told us around three and a quarter, so I'm still confused on which one was correct.

I realized that I'd been staring into my hot chocolate as I'd been thinking of this very story that you are reading, and looked to the countdown clock. One minute and thirty seconds remained until lift-off. I shook my head, took a long sip of hot cocoa, and leaned forward in my seat. The big moment was approaching, and nothing could stop the launch now. One minute, and the tension seemed almost thick enough to cut with a knife; Will it launch? Will it explode in mid-flight? Will they perform a last-second scrub due to a mechanical failure? I closed my eyes for a moment, and forced those unpleasant thoughts out of my mind. The STS-130 mission was taking the Tranquility module up to the ISS (International Space Station), along with the Cupola, a viewing room. Both of these were, or I should say are, Italian-made, and well designed.

Thirty seconds, and some people started counting down. I joined them, whispering under my breath, watching the cluster of lights that held the shuttle. Twenty seconds, and I took another sip, purely out of reflex. I had eyes only for the launch pad. Fifteen seconds... Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One!

It felt as if a miniature sun had been born underneath the shuttle, as it lifted off and transformed night into day, illuminated everything that the eye could see. At first, there was only cheering... Then, as it rose higher, someone shouted "Here it comes!" and I saw the water ripple. With the sound of crackles, then loud popping, and then a sound remarkably similar to a fourth of july Grande Finale, the sound wave of the engines hit us. It was intense, the roar dwarfing even the grandest fireworks display I had ever seen, and I could feel my body vibrating.

I was stunned, awestruck even; Upon a pillar of fire, the Endeavor flew higher into the sky. I whispered to myself, "Good luck, Kay. Godspeed, Endeavor!" The shuttle gave no response, simply breached the cloud cover and continued on, slowly becoming a brilliant star, and then fading into nothing. In thirteen days, the crew will return to Earth. I wish them the best of luck.

-Brian S.

P.S.: Kay, if you read this, this is Pam's son. You rock!


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