But, the stars (and clouds) aligned just right and we got the bird into the sky reeealy early this morning. Earlier than should be humanly possible to be awake. Yet somehow I was awake; I think it was the adrenaline. The rush was certainly big.
So now on to the actual event. We got to T-9 minutes, at the end of the longest 45-minute hold in my life, and finally the clock started again. No more built-in holds, and no more holds that we ended up experiencing either. I turned on the video camera, let it run. Got to T-10 seconds, and everyone started counting down. At T-6.6 seconds (got that from a ride we did with info about the launch) the main engines ignited. I saw a bit of a glowy thing, and then the shuttle turned into a big, bright star and I mean that literally. It was almost twice its height above the launch pad, spewing out thick white smoke and steam, when the sound hit us.
The noise of a launching shuttle is a rather loud and percussive mix of fireworks, Rice Crispies, a low bass rumble like thunder, and a shock wave that rattles your rib cage. There's really no good way to describe it aside from the most awesome, painfully loud, and truly EPIC sound you have ever heard. The sound faded later on, as the shuttle gained altitude, and it looked like the reverse of a shooting star.
I could have sworn that the shuttle would pierce the cloud cover multiple times, but I guess that clouds are higher than I thought. Finally we lost sight of it, and a few minutes later someone pointed out to me the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) as they fell after disconnecting from the shuttle. At that point we meandered towards our bus (took us a couple tries to find it amongst the sea of charter buses just like in marching band) and snoozed all the way back to the hotel.
I don't remember the night/morning before I went to bed, but I do remember thinking it would probably be better to write the post while the shuttle was still fresh in my mind, and then realizing that I didn't have the mental capacity to type very well. This morning.... well, dang, guess it's the afternoon, now, since I got up at about 12:30 PM... I woke up with my head feeling kinda scummy and spongy, but it's worth it. The shuttle launch is a once-in a lifetime experience that is one that I will remember for the rest of my life, especially since it's the last night launch for a space shuttle.