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Space Shuttle Discovery’s Last Launch

I’ve seen quite a few launches over the past 10 years. My first shuttle launch was ten years ago on March 8, 2001 (seen with my friend Ben to celebrate his birthday). Ironically it was Discovery, the same shuttle that I saw yesterday with Adrian, Zachary, and my parents. The first launch you see is an amazing experience and something I will never forget. It was such an amazing thing to see the shuttle launch at dawn over Cocoa Beach, FL. If you’re interested you can see a YouTube video of that launch. I also have some old old scans saved, taken on my old film point & shoot camera. Both of these images were taken ten years ago!

discovery launch march 8, 2001

Yesterday was Discovery’s final flight to Space. The shuttle program is being retired, and there are only one or two flights left, with Endeavor in April and possibly Atlantis in June (or some time this year), if the funding happens for NASA. Adrian and I were discussing the launch on Wednesday night while getting Zachary ready for bed, and decided that it was not worth it to miss this final flight. The space program always seems to be in limbo, and we knew that we’d regret not seeing the flight, plus it was something we wanted to do for Zachary.

So, I called my parents to see if they wanted to join us, and after running some errands in the morning we got ready and were on our way.

Zachary was a happy boy! I told him to smile and he gave me a funny grin. 🙂

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

Traffic wasn’t too bad until we got closer… but it got BAD. Now, driving to Titusville is normally a 3-hour drive or so, but it took us a ridiculously long time. We left at 12:30 and arrived at literally T-5 minutes at 4:45! I’m amazed we even arrived on time. It was absolutely insane how many people were waiting all over the streets. The beach was 20 people deep! it was just amazing to see! It reminded us of what the Apollo missions must have been like with all of the people gathering to watch.

There must have been tens of thousands of onlookers.

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

On our way we saw lots of signs like this dotting the churches and businesses along Cheney Highway (SR 50). I love seeing the community so involved.

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

Adrian dropped me and Zachary off at our watching spot at McDonalds on the water in Titusville… ran and parked the car really fast… and then ran and joined us just in time to put Zachary on his shoulders and see Discovery launch! I couldn’t believe we made it right under the wire, and we were all able to be together for this historic moment!

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

Seeing the shuttle launch was breathtaking!

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

My mom took this photo of the 3 of us:

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

See the difference between a point & shoot and an SLR (first image taken with the G11, second with the 5D):

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

We told Zachary that Buzz Lightyear was flying up on the Space Shuttle. He was very excited to see the shuttle blast off!

discovery space shuttle last launch february 24, 2011

Traffic going home was even worse than coming up to Titusville. AT&T service was basically down for a while. While we were navigating traffic and trying to load the maps on our phone to find the best route, we spotted my parents in their car also trying to get through the traffic! As you can see from the iPhone Maps, it pretty much was not loading, and that whole road was completely red (awful traffic).

It ended up taking us 2 hours just to go 2 miles (so much fun with a 2 year old in the car, lol) and we decided to forget about I-95 which was totally backed up and drive further toward Orlando to grab the Turnpike after a series of road changes. After a quick stop for dinner a few miles from the Turnpike, Zachary ended up falling asleep, and so did I! 🙂 We got home after 12AM. It was nice to sleep in a little this morning. I’m so thankful we got to see this once in a lifetime experience and that Zachary will be able to tell his friends one day that he saw Discovery’s last launch.

We hope to see all of the final launches in the space shuttle program. It is the end of an era.

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