Thursday, February 07, 2008
The space shuttle launched today
I'm obsessed with watching the space shuttle launches and landings on the internet. The landings are pretty much what you expect: a ground level view of the space shuttle coming in, though seen through cameras powerful enough to give a pretty good picture of it miles out. The launches show you things at heights, speeds and distances humans never see.
After the Columbia shuttle was ruined by chunks of foam coming off the external fuel tank, NASA started watching the tanks more carefully. One of the things they do now is photograph it from the shuttle as the two separate high in the atmosphere. They also have webcams on the shuttle and tank. From those cameras, you see the view from the shuttle when the rocket boosters separate and when the tank falls away. Both occur in such thin air that it looks like slow motion. It's traveling so fast, and is so far away, at that point that it also happens with a graceful coldness. It is practically Kubrickian.
Today's launch is still available to watch on NASA's website. It cuts off after the rocket boosters are ejected.