July 08, 2021

STS135 - Ten Years After

Ten years ago today was the final launch of the Space Shuttle, STS-135. The Space Shuttle Atlantis flew a crew of four on a final support mission to the International Space Station and closed out the then 30-year-old Space Shuttle Program.

I grew up with imagery and stories of the Space Shuttle; I had the extraordinary chance to be at Cape Canaveral for the final launch; on this day, it is good to remember that moment as it was.

I wrote to a friend shortly after -

This past weekend I drove down to Florida for the STS135 launch; watched from the Kennedy Space Center causeway, ~4mi out. The launch ... I'm not sure what to say about it, I'm still processing. I can say what it was like physically; at ignition, there was an great grey cloud of exhaust from the launchpad; a few seconds later, two incredible plumes of orange-white fire, the SRB exhaust plumes. The exhaust was superbright, throwing light into the grey day like little else I've ever seen. In just a few seconds the stack hit a cloud and lit it orange-white and it was gone.

A little after, there was a pressure wave across the water; it was both sound and physical force. Not overwhelming; but powerful, deep. Like hundreds of heavy trains all rolling at once near you. And then it too was gone.


I left with two things; the SRB fire and memory of lying on the grass by the water, commanding away clouds in the grey sky.


Posted by vsrinivas at July 8, 2021 09:49 AM