Since STS-132 was one of the last shuttle missions, the launch of Atlantis on May 14th excited many people, and was one of the most watched shuttle launches ever. I decided not to go after one of the limited viewing stand tickets. We stayed in Titusville and arrived early at Space View park to try for a good seat.
Bring Your Long Lens
Since the Space View park is almost 15 miles from the shuttle launch pad, a persons view of the shuttle itself is of little more than a pea held at arms length. I bought a special tele extender for my camera to increase its zoom. I also bought a tripod, but didn’t use it in the end because of the crush of people.
We waited all day for the moment of truth. After a hazy morning, the shuttle rose into a clear blue sky.
Smoke and Fire
The shuttle rides two solid rocket boosters for two and half minutes. They leave an incredible trail behind the shuttle as it blasts toward space. They also generate a tremendous roar which was loud even fifteen miles away. Once the boosters separate from the shuttle, the shuttle leaves no trail as the main engines burn clean.
We spent our day sitting on a blanket in the shade of a large bush. We considered ourselves lucky to have an excellent view over the water and shade. I wandered around and fetched lunch while Joy held our spot. As the launch approached, more and more people crowded into the area in front of us and we were forced to stand to see over them. After the launch as people were clearing out we took pictures of us.