Nov 19

What is a space shuttle launch like?

Category: Uncategorized

A friend recently asked me what it was like to witness a space shuttle launch (I’ve been lucky enough to see several).  Here is my answer, cleaned up a little bit.

Have you seen a shuttle launch? If you have, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that it is earth-shaking. There are two aspects:

One is the straightforward physical event.  A giant, expensive, dangerous, jaw-dropping thing that makes a noise like bombs constantly exploding, a repetitive noise like someone poking a playing card into the spokes of God’s bicycle wheel, a screaming torch that lights up the night sky like a second sun.

The other thing is awareness of the danger and the drama of a few human beings sitting on top of a pile of flaming explosives that is shooting into space, and the miracle of the fact that – most of the time – they make it. It makes you hold your breath in fear and anticipation, and leaves you with the knowledge that you have experienced one of the defining moments of your era, as if you were an ancient Egyptian watching the completion of the Sphynx.

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