Endeavour launch

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I’ve been following astronaut Mark Polansky (Astro_127) on Twitter, and thinking how cool it would be to see a shuttle launch someday, when I happened to receive an email from OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, about upcoming events. One of which was that they were going to show the shuttle launch on the big screen in the planetarium. Today. It just so happened that I had nothing specific to do at that hour this afternoon, so I went.

I showed up just as they opened the auditorium, half an hour before launch. There were about 60-70 people there, mostly families with small children, and an OMSI volunteer provided running commentary to fill in the gaps between the NASA announcer’s pronouncements. Leaning back in that planetarium seat, listening to the countdown and the poll of the various departments, and feeling that tiny personal connection with the pilot because of reading his Twitter feed, my heart really started to race as we got down to the final nine minutes. And when the Orbiter Access Arm (the bridge through which the crew boards) pulled away from the shuttle at T minus 7:30, the pilot waved at the arm’s camera as it swung away. Hey, that’s Astro_127 waving at me!

We were supposed to count along with the final countdown from 10, but the announcer didn’t actually start counting out loud until 5. It was still pretty impressive when it went up. And then we got External-Tank-Cam all the way to orbit, which was cool too.

On the way out of the museum I noticed a display of slide rules. How far we’ve come.

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