Watch a shuttle launch

6 miles away is a long ways away to watch something from, but there is so much anticipation that builds during those last few minutes among the crowd of hundreds lined up along the causeway. After T-20 seconds, I could feel my heart rate quicken and my lungs almost felt a little tingly, if that makes sense. The first thing you see is a flourish of smoke push out and around the shuttle, but there is no sound, amazingly not for another 30 seconds, as the sound waves rush over the water towards you. For a brief moment you wonder whether something went horribly wrong, because the steam rises upward much faster than the shuttle and for 2 seconds or so all you see is this giant ball of steam obscuring everything. But then, the well known orange color of the external tank pokes up above the artificial cloud and you're put a little bit to ease. The real "sight" takes place over the next 60 seconds as the shuttle hurtles upward and slightly sideways... the most dramatic difference watching it in person verses on TV (visually) is that the giant trail of fire is *BRIGHT*, almost analogous to that sense of brightness you see looking into the sun, which is incredible given how far away it is.

I just stood there trying to soak it all in -- like many amazing sights, it happens so quickly and all you can do is think, "wow, I'm really seeing this, I'm really seeing this". Only when the shuttle is a ways up in the sky do you finally feel the low rumble/crackle of the engines, which at first isn't as pronounced as you're made to believe it will be. But within 5 seconds or so, you feel that gentle rumble steadily grow to a crescendo, at which point it is the genuinely loud sound which many people who have seen the shuttle go up are very fond of. And then rather suddenly, within a couple of seconds, there is almost no sound at all, by which point the shuttle is actually pretty high up in the sky, rising faster and faster. By the time they announce "booster separation", less than 2 minutes into flight (I think), you are watching what looks like a bright flickery star and it is impossible to distinguish the boosters from the shuttle. Getting your senses again, you look around and notice the giant column of smoke hanging in the sky showing where the shuttle flew, pretty in its own right.

And that's it! It's an incredible sight that I wish everyone had a chance to experience!