At 2:28 pm Eastern Standard Time, the space shuttle Atlantis left Earth. It was a flawless launch.
It is, of course, hard to describe the experience of watching it go up. I was surprised by just how bright it was. It’s like a mini-Sun, which is roughly right since it burns its liquid hydrogen/oxygen fuel at 3000 C, just a factor of two short of the temperature of the Sun. And, of course, it is loud. Not “hurt my ears” loud. More like “my whole body is vibrating” loud. Very intense.
The whole thing was over in a couple of minutes. I guess the shuttle was eager to get to space. It’s been all dressed up and waiting for days. All too soon the painfully bright light had disappeared. The overwhelming sound had subsided. And the only sign of the absolutely amazing event we’d just witnessed were the slowly dissipating clouds of smoke.
At the end of the day, it is an incredible accomplishment. We have just shot six people into space.