We returned home from our attempt to see the Space Shuttle Endeavour launch filled with uncertainty. But The Pilot and I decided we were going to try to make the trip again if at all possible.
So I was back to obsessively checking NASA’s Facebook page. This time for the announcement of a scheduled launch attempt. Finally, about a week after we returned home -there it was. The next scheduled launch attempt for STS-134 was May 16 at 8:56 a.m EDT.
And the Davis’ were going to be there! The Pilot, once again, re-arranged his work schedule and I, again, made hotel reservations. And on May 15, 2011 we loaded our minivan and made the same long 6 hour drive back to central Florida.
One posivite thing that came from the delay of the previously scheduled launch was that we were able to purchase tickets to view the launch from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex from a family that wasn’t able to make the trip back for the second launch attempt. These tickets are extremely hard to come by. You had to win a lottery just for the opportunity to purchase them. So when we met the man who sold them to us I felt so badly for him. I could see the disappointment in his face that he was parting with these tickets and his dream of seeing a launch had ended. I hope he understood how much we appreciated them.
The day was here! Again! At least we were hoping this was the day. It began really, really early…
Ya’ll, that’s 1:07 a.m. and I’m not one for getting up early. Putting my feet on the floow before 6:00 usually makes me nauseous. But not this time! I woke up every 30 minutes worrying I would over sleep. When that clock struck 1:00 I shot out of bed like a rocket! (Pun intended, hehe.) I quickly got dressed and The Pilot and I very gently picked up our babies and carried them down to the car. We planned on them continuing to sleep peacefully.
That didn’t actually happen. Apparently, they don’t like being awakened in the middle of the night. One day they’ll realize how cool this was and thank me. I hope.
We arrived at Kennedy Space Center with no problems except that we had two babies that were wide awake at 2:00 a.m. and seven more long hours to go. We chose our spot to watch the launch from and settled in. Well, Lawson and I settled in…
Burtch, on the other hand, was on sensory overload. The Pilot spent the entire night chasing Burtch around the Visitor’s Complex, which is an awesome place. And I bet it’s even more awesome if you’ve had a full night’s sleep and it’s not 2:00 a.m.
At last. The sun started to rise and it was starting to seem real. Like we might actually witness the Space Shuttle Endeavour launch humans into space!
There was a giant screen set up where we could see Endeavour on the launch pad and watch all of the preparations for the launch. There had been no technical issues and the weather was favorable. My fingers were crossed. Less than four hours to go…
The boys were doing well with the wait. Burtch finally fell asleep when the sun came up.
As the launch grew nearer my excitement grew and so did my anxiety. Personally, I wanted this so badly for myself and my family. And we were so close! But I was also nervous for the crew. Human beings were about to ignite, what is essentially a bomb, and ride it off of our planet. An incredible feat of engineering but there were so many things that could go wrong.
The energy from the prayers and well wishes in the crowd was palpable as the numbers on the countdown clock ticked away.
Around the 10 minute mark the crowd really started to come alive. Everyone was on their feet. All eyes were shifting from the giant screen to above the tree line where we would see Endeavour begining her journey . The hair on my legs grew an inch from my goose bumps.
I was slightly in disbelief that this was really going to happen. But I knew if it scrubbed at this point I was so filled with emotion that I would burst into tears.
T minus 1 minute…and counting!
The boys had lost all patience with this adventure and they were both crying. The Pilot is telling Burtch to be still over and over again while he’s trying to operate the video recorder. I’m simultaneously trying to soothe Lawson and get our little point and shoot camera ready.
T minus 30 seconds…
On the giant screen we saw the main engines ignite. The boys quieted and seemed to become engaged with what was happening. I wanted to cry and jump up and down in joy at the same time. But I think I just kept saying “Oh my God! Oh wow! Oh my God! Wow!” One of my less articulate moments.
We saw Endeavour lift from launch pad 39A at 8:56 a.m. on the giant screen. About 5 seconds later we saw her rise above the tree line.
The fire from the solid rocket boosters looks nothing like it does on television or in photos. Especially not in these photos. It contains every color you could ever imagine. Breathtaking.
About 10 seconds later the sound reached us and the earth began to rumble. You could feel the power of Endeavour through your entire body. We got about 5 more seconds of an unbelievable show before the space craft disappeared into the clouds and we could only listen to her ascent into the heavens.
That was it. We did what we came (twice) to do. We watched human beings safely leave our earth.
The experience was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. It was amazing.
But I missed half of it because I was watching my kids watch it.
And that was even more amazing.