Night Launch

Adventures of a first-time shuttle photographer.

(Ed Darack)

Up Close and Personal

(Ed Darack)

I sunk one of Scott’s seismic triggers into the ground and plugged it into the camera. When Ben came over to see if I needed any help, I asked him to jump up and down and, sure enough, the camera shutter started firing. Ben reminded me to put in a large enough flash card; storms were predicted, and would keep the camera shooting for as long as the thunderclaps continued overhead. My 32-gigabyte card could accommodate 1,238 images. I hoped it was enough.

Along with the other photographers, I would have, in theory, one more chance to do a camera check before the launch. I’d be able to swap out camera batteries, and erase all the images triggered by thunder. But the final camera check could easily be cancelled, which is why the cameras and remotes are turned on from the outset.

One of the highlights of the shoot was getting inside the actual perimeter of Pad 39A, allowing detailed, up-close shots of Endeavour, the solid rocket boosters and external fuel tank with the “beanie cap” (gaseous oxygen vent) on top. I thought the closest I would get to the shuttle was six or seven miles; now I was standing within just a few hundred feet of the orbiter, close enough to see the ports for the directional nozzles on the nose, the individual heat tiles, and detail on the solid rocket boosters and external tank.

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