Space Shuttle Endeavour — Success on STS-126 December 6, 2008Posted by skywalking1 in Space.
Liz and I attended the launch of space shuttle mission STS-126 on November 14, 2008. This resupply and repair flight to the International Space Station (which I had visited with my STS-98 crew in 2001) took on an ambitious array of tasks, from installation of interior facilities for expansion of the ISS crew to 6, to a complicated repair of the starboard Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ), the ferris-wheel-like joint that allows the right side solar array to swivel like a paddle wheel to track the sun.
The launch itself came on Friday night the 14th at 7:55 pm, EST, into a clear, calm night sky. A high layer of cirrus was backlit by a nearly full Moon. I’ve seen night launches before, but never one this dramatic. Endeavour lit up the Cape in a flickering, orange-yellow glow, even as the sound from the shuttle’s boosters smacked across the press site and shook the Vehicle Assembly Building across the road. A minute into the flight, supersonic, Endeavour tore through that high cirrus layer like an incandescent needle through canvas. As the shuttle’s shock cone pierced the clouds, it spread a widening ripple in the layer of ice crystals, revealing the black sky above. The hole blown through the Moon-lit cirrus layer brought gasps of awe from all of us on the ground!
By the time their 15 days of work were done, the Endeavour crew had put the damaged joint back into operation, and upgraded the living space with a water recycling system that can even turn waste humidity and urine into potable water. Well done to the STS-126 crew, and thanks for a spectacular departure I’ll never forget. It was almost as beautiful as my last flight! Compare for yourself in Sky Walking…