But I found myself walking out of the conference centre at just after three this afternoon, skipping the final session and jumping in my rental car. I knew the traffic was bad, and with just over an hour to the launch I was probably kidding myself that I'd make it all the way to Titusville and the Space Coast. As it was I made it a lot further than I expected, following the lines of traffic down the 528 to just short of the Titusville turnoff. That final five minute hold while they got the Eastern Range computers online helped, but with only a 10 minute launch window the shuttle had to go or wait another day.
Everyone else on the road was pulling off onto the verge, and a hundred car radios relayed the final seconds of the countdown as we all looked to the northeast. There was nothing for a while, and then a rising cloud of white topped with light as the shuttle rose above the trees. Twenty miles or so away it was clear and so very close in the bright Florida air.
I raised my camera and clicked away.
That last image is cropped in to show the bright white of the shuttle main engines burning at the edge of the atmosphere. The two orange lights are the solid rocket boosters falling away just after separation, their engine heat fading away as they drop behind on their long fall home.
An awesome experience.
Only two more launches to go. I doubt I'll get the chance to see them, so I am very glad I made the pilgrimage this afternoon. And that I endured the nearly six hour journey back...