Shuttle Launch


So, it’s been a few months since I went to see the shuttle launch.

It was okay.

I guess you could sum up my feelings with that Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?” The reason that I went to see the shuttle launch is because of the essay Penn Jillette wrote about it in Penn and Teller’s “How to Play in Traffic”.

“It’s 3.7 miles away, and your looking at this flame and the flame is far away and it’s brighter than watching an arc welder from across a room[….] The fluffy smoke clouds of the angels of exploration spill out of your field of vision. They spill out of your peripheral vision.”

“You don’t exactly hear it at first, it almost knocks you over. It’s the loudest most wonderful sound you’ve ever heard. […] You can’t really hear it. It’s too loud to hear. It’s wonderful deep and low. It’s the bottom.”

“This is a real explosion and it’s controlled and it’s doing nothing but good and it makes your unbuttoned shirt flap around your arms. It’s beyond sound,it’s wind. It’s a man-made hurricane.”

The key point there being, “3.7 miles away”. In the VIP section. I was in closer to 7 miles away, along the NASA Causeway, in the closest section open to to the general public. From there, the Shuttle is a tiny speck without binoculars, and the sound of the launch, when it hits you, is reminiscent of the sound of distant thunder in the midwest. And with the low clouds, the whole show was over in matter of seconds. I could tell you more, but just watch the movie. That’s pretty much what I saw and heard, and I’m nowhere near as good at words as Penn.

Next time, I’m bringing binoculars.

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