The Pendleton Panther

Pendleton Faculty Attends Shuttle Launch STS 129

Posted on: November 17, 2009

Monday, November 16, Linda Mayberry (Social Studies department) and I drove over to Kennedy Space Center for the launching of the space shuttle Atlantis.  The entire Visitor’s Center was open, so we explored the exhibits and looked for a good place where Linda could watch the launch.  I had received a special invitation, so I would be going to a different location to view the launch.  I had no idea how good that location would be.

I boarded a bus and found myself at the viewing site for family members and friends of the shuttle astronauts.  This is the closest location from which spectators can view a launch, 4 miles.  People there were talking about their friends / roommates / flight buddies who were going on the mission, and I could feel the excitement and anticipation as the countdown wore on.  Every time an announcement said that another system checked out the crowd would break out in applause.

Finally the countdown got close to zero.  At T minus 3 minutes NASA played the National Anthem.  Just before the launch I photographed a Bald Eagle flying by.  The crowd counted down the final ten seconds with the announcer.  When the first plumes came from the launch pad a cheer went up.  Then the shuttle rose on a pillar of fire, cleared the tower, and the crowd roared.

As the shuttle neared the clouds, the sound from the launch finally reached us.  While it was not as loud as I expected, I could feel the concussions  from the roar and crackle of the engines.  The shuttle continued to climb, and we watched it until the solid rocket boosters separated.  Then we made our way back to the buses and returned to the visitor’s center.

It was cool to overhear people talking.  Many were moved to tears knowing that their best friends or family were fulfilling lifelong dreams of traveling into space.  I realized as I listened that I was a spectator; these people were participants.  Even though I found the launch exhilarating, the launch meant more to them than I will ever understand.

STS-129 was my first attended shuttle launch.  Everything worked perfectly, and there were no delays or postponements.  I was a recipient of a marvelous opportunity, and I experienced something I will never forget.  — Eric Van Zytveld

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This photo was taken by Mr. VanZytveld in Cape Canaveral, FL. The purpose of the space flight was to bring new astronauts and equipment to the ISS (International Space Station).

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