Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Endeavour's last blast

It was an awesome launch for Endeavour in the end - even viewed from 4000 miles away on the internet courtesy of NASA TV rather than from the thundering proximity of Kennedy Space Center (KSC) press site close to the famous countdown clock.

Endeavour's breakfast-time launch yesterday thrilled 45,000 spectators on the grounds of KSC and a crowd of many thousands - though likely less than the 500,000 who turned up in April - on Florida’s beaches and causeways and the shores of the Banana and Indian rivers.

It's a scene that will occur only one more time in the history of the Space Shuttle programme, when Atlantis launches in mid-July on the 135th and final, final flight.

Though Endeavour had a smooth countdown this time around, all was not quite perfect. A cloud deck - that did not threaten launch the launch itself - obscured the view of spectators closer to KSC once the Shuttle was about 22 seconds into flight.

"You can see that we don't have any flight rules or launch commit criteria that dictate how long you can see the launch before it goes out of sight," Mike Moses, NASA's Shuttle Program Launch Integration manager, joked to reporters in the post-launch press conference.

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