Night Launch

Adventures of a first-time shuttle photographer.

(Ed Darack)

Post Launch

(Ed Darack)

This is my favorite static image from the entire shoot, and one that was entirely unexpected. A few hours after launch, the photographers got word that a bus would be heading out to the remote camera sites so we could pick up our gear. At the first camera setup, on the mound, I found my gear coated in a slurry made of the exhaust of the solid rocket boosters mixed with the water from the sound suppression system. Fortunately, the trash bags protected everything.

While another photographer was retrieving his remote cameras, I saw this scene, and quickly set up a tripod, mounted one of my Canon 1DSMK3s with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens, and took the shot. The dawn light behind the launch complex, brilliantly lit with the xenon floodlights, with vapor rising from the pad. I’d never seen a shot like this: the launch pad sans shuttle, but with the telltale signs that Endeavour had just launched, with floodlights pointing to where it now orbited.

About Ed Darack
Ed Darack

Air & Space/Smithsonian contributing editor Ed Darack’s forthcoming book, The Final Mission of Extortion 17 (Smithsonian Books, 2017), covers the story of the people and circumstances of Extortion 17 and its downing in Afghanistan in August 2011. The shootdown was the single deadliest incident in the war in Afghanistan. The book grew out of his article in the Feb./Mar. 2015 issue. See his website and Facebook page for more information.

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