Night Launch

Adventures of a first-time shuttle photographer.

(Ed Darack)


(Ed Darack)

On Saturday, February 6, I arrived at the media site to a cool, clear sky. Thunderstorms had pounded the area the night before, so I was nervous about what I would find when we headed out to the launch area. A lot of photographs had been shot, eating up a healthy chunk of the flash cards in each of the cameras. I erased the blank images and put new batteries in the cameras and seismic triggers.

With the launch planned for 4:39:50 a.m., Sunday, instead of returning to my hotel 30 minutes away, I opted to sleep in my car. Three miles distant, powerful xenon spotlights illuminating Endeavour at Pad 39A cast a distinct, broad “V” into the sky, each arm of which was capped by the reflection off of low, swirling clouds. Slowly, people began to arrive, and by 3 a.m. a crowd of about 150 journalists waited near the countdown clock in the cold, windy early morning. With just nine minutes to go, the words “no-go” reverberated from a distant loudspeaker, based on bad weather. The launch was scrubbed, to be tried again the next morning.

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