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We were very lucky to get NASA employee passes to view the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-131) from the NASA Causeway, approximately 6 miles due south of Launch Pad 39A. We were joined by Valerie's parents and this was the first time any of us had seen a launch in person. There are only 4 more missions on the manifest (including STS-131) before the Shuttle program is retired.

The launch occurred at 6:21 AM EDT on Monday, April 5, 2010. We arrived at Kennedy Space Center around 12:30 AM, about 30 minutes before the gates opened. This paid off: as one of the first few cars allowed on the causeway, we had a spectacular front-row view very close to where we parked and were able to get into the traffic line and drive off of the center rather quickly after the launch.

All in all, the lack of sleep was very well worth it! This was a very special morning for us all, one we will never forget.

In another stroke of good luck, I was at Kennedy Space Center a few weeks before the launch for a meeting and was able to get a tour around Pad 39A while Discovery was sitting out there. It was pretty special to be able to get an up-close view of the orbiter, knowing we'd be back there in a few weeks to see it fly.

For those wondering, here's the camera gear I used for the launch
* Nikon D200 DSLR
* Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II with 1.7x teleconverter
* Nikon 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF
* Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II
* Sony HD camcorder

Launch Videos  



Click here to view the video in high definition.

Launch Photographs  
Space Shuttle Discovery on Pad 39A
Discovery sitting on launch pad 39A
A very zoomed-in shot of Discovery
Waiting...and waiting...

This is how Discovery looked to the naked eye (bright light just left of center).
The xenon lights were illuminating the clouds.
Half Moon
Vehicle Assembly Building. The two lights streaks are from a passing helicopter.
The three white lights on the left hand side are the 300-foot lightning towers installed at pad 39A for the Constellation program.
For being yanked out of bed at 11 PM, Megan really behaved herself.
First Aid Station and Exchange/Memorabilia Trailer
A lot of people caught some sleep under blankets or in sleeping bags.
Lights from the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF)
The International Space Station (Discovery's destination) passed overhead just 15 minutes before liftoff. That was pretty amazing to see.
LIFTOFF! I really expected to shed a few tears, but was too busy taking pictures and video.
What an amazing view!
Executing the roll maneuver
Executing the roll maneuver
We couldn't have asked for more perfect weather or viewing conditions. This is one of my most favorite photographs I've ever shot.
Post-Solid Rocket Booster separation
Post-Solid Rocket Booster separation
As sunrise approached, the upper portions of the plume began to glow. Very pretty. If you look closely, you can still see the streak of Discovery just above the horizon, right of center.
Looks like a face trying to eat something
From our perspective, the smoke plume eventually turned into this wicked looking dragon, complete with dragon's breath.
From our perspective, the smoke plume eventually turned into this wicked looking dragon, complete with dragon's breath.
From our perspective, the smoke plume eventually turned into this wicked looking dragon, complete with dragon's breath.
From our perspective, the smoke plume eventually turned into this wicked looking dragon, complete with dragon's breath.
 


 

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