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Jonathan Yarak | profile | all galleries >> Events and Happenings >> STS-126 Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch Day tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

STS-126 Space Shuttle Endeavour Launch Day

One of the most amazing (and difficult to photograph) experiences of my life! We spent the whole day at the Kennedy Space Center and then were bussed out to the NASA Causeway (approximately 6 miles from the launch pad).

I rented the epic Canon EF 600mm F/4L IS USM for this task and despite having never used so massive a lens I think I still did okay! The quickness with which it was over and the ludicrously disparate lighting conditions before and during the launch made things difficult so I have some seriously varying quality in the photos, but it was so magnificent I don't care! I've included a number of 100% crops because I think it's worth it even without great sharpness.
At the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center. 50 years of NASA! KSC Visitor's Complex entrance. Spaceman.
Taking the bus to the Saturn V. Apollo launch control systems. Followed by a little reenactment of a launch. Saturn V baby!
Massive F1 engines. More engines. Stage 2 Engines Stage 3 engines.
Fuel tank of stage 2. Lunar modules and the top of the rocket. Pad 39A from the Saturn V exhibit.  ~3 miles away. Closer shot with the extender. Lots of atmospheric distortion.
Lonely Pad 39B. An Atlas rocket launch pad. My lens made me popular! Birds!
Vehicle assembly building. Fourth largest building in the world by volume. Tallest single story building in the world! Astronaut Memorial. Redstone rocket (used for Mercury missions). Sunset, getting ready to head to the causeway.
First shot from the causeway, 6 miles from the orbiter.  Uncropped shot. Lots of people lined up. Sharing the wealth with fellow photographers. Now with the extender.
The Vehicle Assembly Building.  It was dark out on that causeway, FYI! People hanging out waiting for the launch. Wide Angle at 200mm, showing the floods lighting the STS. Still waiting...
Yeah baby. Moonrise next to a Delta rocket launch pad. Can't quite make it out, but there's a Delta 4 Heavy in that pad. Moonshot.
Orbiter door retracting. Final piece being retracted. T-10 seconds, hydrogen igniters firing to burn off gas inside the main engine cones. Main engine start!!! SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) refers to the three engines on the orbiter itself.
Throttle up, last shot I got before the exhaust plume obscured the orbiter. Blurry but looks awesome, Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) ignition! First shot of the orbiter as it clears the tower and exhaust plume. Go baby GO!!!!
Camera couldn't keep up with the brightness. Starting to look like daylight outside at this point. Serious power. Roll program starting.
About halfway through roll program, shock diamonds from the SSMEs now visible, 100% crop. SSME shock diamonds are awesome! Roll program just about complete. Motion blurred again but cool looking.
Go GO GO!!!! Orbiter wing still barely visible in there. Wide shot as the brightness died down, it was starting to return to nighttime light at this point. SRB burnout and jettison commencing.
SRB burnout. SRB jettison! Everyone broke out into cheers (again) at this point, it was just barely visible with the naked eye. SRBs dying out.
Shuttle continues on under main engine power as SRBs fall back to earth. Beautiful sight.  Absolutely INCREDIBLE experience.