Sunday, March 15, 2009

3...2...1...Lift Off!

"I am speechless. I'm astonished and amazed...." -Steven Curtis Chapman, 'Speechless'

Shuttle Discovery, STS-119, launched beautifully at 7:43 pm, right after sunset. What a sight! I truly was speechless.

Isaac and I had began our day with lots of prayer time for the launch, a long walk on the beach, and an ultimate sand castle building session. It was a peaceful, joyous Sunday morning.

Isaac's moat and my sand castle :)
While we were being architects in the sand, Kelly called to tell us she'd moved our names to the VIP list for the shuttle launch. That might not sound like much, but to us, it was super exciting. The VIP guests get to sit in front of Banana Creek, on the bleachers at the Saturn V Center. It also means there's an air contioned building with lots to see and do, including a restaurant for the 2 hour wait before launch. We were some of the first people there, so we were able to stake out seats on the top row on one section of bleachers. It was a perfect spot! To be only 2.8 miles from the launch pad is an incredible feeling!

At the Visitors' Center

The blue countdown clock I've watched all my life on TV!

Our seats on the bleachers at sunset.
As the clock ran down the time with no pauses or stops, the excitement kept building. I stood still as Lee thanked ground control and all of NASA for making the launch possible. At lift off, I cried and prayed. Me being the emotional basket case that I am, I've been crying at every launch since Columbia. I always watched the launches with excitement, but after losing a crew, I realized just how precious those moments really are. While my family was spared losing someone we knew in the Columbia accident, it's a constant reminder that we could.
In the darkening sky, as the rockets ignited, all we saw for the first few seconds was an orange burst of light. As the shuttle cleared the tower, it looked like it grew five times in size. I could see the shuttle, the external tank, and the SRBs clearly, but my camera could not. Oh well. The magnificence of the moment is in my mind. After about 6 seconds, we finally heard the rumble from the ignition of the main engines. The vibrations moved our clothes! As the shuttle gained height and speed, the light from the setting sun reflected beautifully off of the plume of smoke from the launch. God has so much fun with science!!
Orange glow from lift off.
The sun reflecting off the smoke plume.
SRB separation
After we returned to the Vistors' Center, we looked up to see the ISS passing overhead. NASA was right on (duh!) launching Discovery into the right orbit to be able to play chase with the ISS until they dock on Tuesday. It's so amazing how it all works together. It's amazing that our Abba God allows humans the imagination, intrigue, and intelligence to be able to do such fantastic things. It's been an amazing day of prayer and thanksgiving as I've stood in awe and speechless at all our Lord has made.

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