Hephaestus's Blog

Shuttle launch
May 26, 2010, 12:44
Filed under: Space stuff

On May 14th, me and my mom and my sister, Winnie, and my grandparents went to see a Space Shuttle launch.

We were 14.2 miles away but could see the contrail very clearly, i.e. it was not a thin streak, it was really kind of thick until the Shuttle was very far away and probably out over the ocean.  Eventually the contrail just disappeared, as it was the exhaust from the solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.   By disappeared, I mean that the contrail was still there but trailed off into the distance and then stopped when the SRBs separated from the Shuttle Orbiter and attached External Tank (ET).  The Shuttle is actually made up of 3 main parts: the SRBs, the ET, and the Orbiter.  The SRBs, which separate around 2 minutes after liftoff and land in the Atlantic, where they are retrieved, are filled with a mixture of ammonium perchlorate oxidizer and aluminum fuel and a few other things which I am not going to mention here.  The shuttle looked like an enormous fireball because all we could see was the flame from the SRBs.  The ET, which consists of a liquid hydrogen tank (fuel), liquid oxygen tank (oxidizer), an intertank section, and an outer casing that encloses the whole thing, is released when the Shuttle leaves the atmosphere and it burns up as it falls down to Earth.  Finally, there is the Orbiter, which is what most people think of when they hear the word Space Shuttle. This is the only part that actually orbits Earth, hence the name. There are 3 Orbiters, which are called Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavor.  The Orbiter that we saw launch was Atlantis.  This was the last planned launch of the Atlantis orbiter.

I just can’t explain how it felt to see the launch, except that it was amazing.  The sound took a long time to reach us because we were very far away from the launch pad.  It sounded like thunder, except that it went on for a long time.  Watching the shuttle was exciting.  I have never seen anything like it.  It was inspiring.