Out to Launch

motel view

Here's the view from my room in the Melbourne Beach Hilton. As you can tell, the beach is very narrow. At highest tide, the water came right up onto the bottom steps of the boardwalk stairs over that one little "dune." The outer face of the dune has been cut to the vertical by the waves.


I did my beach-walking at sunrise and sunset. For the geographically challenged: which is this? That's right: the ocean is the Atlantic, and this is sunrise.


Two herons fished the surf near the hotel every morning. This one has just caught a fish and is walking back from the water to eat it.


Launch begins. The first clouds of steam as the water and hot engine exhaust meet. All these pictures were shot with a Kodak one-time-use 27-shot camera, the standard little outdoor type you can get at any grocery store in the yellow box. I had three ready to go (unboxed, unwrapped, film advanced to first exposure.) Shooting as fast as I could advance the film, I used not quite two rolls of film before the shuttle was out of sight. That was too many shots to put them all on this page, so here's a selection.


On a lance of fire. All you could see in real life--at least without a telephoto lens--was the flame--it looked like the entire assemblage was pure fire. But the rockets and the shuttle are above the fiery column. To my surprise, the cheap camera's film picked up enough detail that we could zoom in at the scanning stage and show more detail, as in the next two shots.

zoomed in rocket

Zooming in during scan made it clear which was the rocket and which was the flame. This level of resolution would not have been possible with the digital camera I had with me, even if I hadn't broken it.

zoom in closer

And even more zoom... now it looks like the image on TV taken with a telephoto lens.


Back to real-life view for a moment. We weren't hearing this yet, by the way. The sound was soon to come rushing over us.


Another zoom showing the rocket above the flame.


"Higher still and higher..."

steam and rocket exhaust

Zoomed image of the previous shot. The distinct difference in color between the steam and the exhaust surprised me.

rocket high up

This is probably the best "close-up" shot of the launch--it's far enough up to be against darker blue, but still low enough that foreshortening hasn't left us with just a dot of fire.

SRB separation

She's waaaay up, and this is just before or just after SRB separation. That was something I could see through binoculars, just barely, but didn't get on film. I have to wonder now what the same film would have done in a really good camera, behind a top-quality lens.


Back in Austin, right after I unpacked the presents, we're all in STS-112 shirts at DRW's house, about to go out and deliver the film to a one-hour-developer place while we have supper. The waitress at Lone Star Cafe managed not to notice our identical shirts, but commented on DRW's utility knife. That was a bit of a let-down, but we managed to be mature and not scream "Don't you see our shirts? Don't you realize this means something?" Some people...

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