I just saw a shuttle launch! I haven't been this excited since Christmas Eve, 1985!
I would have mentioned I was going to the launch ahead of time here, but things happened kinda quick. Here's a condensed version of events:
As you might expect, there's extensive medical support at shuttle launches. One of the layers of support falls more or less into the "let's really, really, really hope we don't need these guys" category - medical personnel who support a rescue operation, if one is needed. Many of the doctors who work those standbys are military personnel, because the job description requires a bunch of stuff - flight certification, water survival training, that sort of thing - that aren't part of the average residency training program.
My wife is certified to provide that sort of shuttle medical support. Yesterday, she was asked to get down to KSC if at all possible today, because they were going to be short of people if the mission got bumped to tomorrow. She spent the rest of yesterday and part of this morning getting all the permissions in order, and at 8:30 this morning - CDT - we had the family in the car and on the way from Ft. Rucker to the space center. We rolled in to Space View Park in Titusville at about 4:45 this afternoon, EDT, and were in time to secure decent viewing spots along the Indian River for the 6:03 launch.
The launch went off on schedule, and definitely was one of those experiences - even at a distance of 10 miles - that can't be fully captured. You really do have to be there.
Some of the pictures I took of the launch are below the fold:
The pictures have been cropped and converted to jps from raw, but I haven't had time to try to enhance them in any other way. You can click on the images for larger versions. The pictures were taken with a Canon XSi and a Canon 75-300mm zoom lens.
Time permitting (and it may not), I'll get a few others up later.