I’ll skip the poetry and just try and convey what went through my mind through the launch.
The shuttle jumps so quickly from the ground. The flames coming out the back. A rainbow made of fire. No. A fire made of rainbow. Doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it really looks like. There’s a full spectrum of reds. Isn't it supposed to be white and bright? What is this? Burnt maroons, hot yellows in streaks, just like a cartoon rainbow. It has texture like rough sandpaper. It’s SO bright. I shouldn’t be looking at this. No one should be looking at something this bright. Am I blind? I tried to look away for a second to see if I could still see. Couldn’t move my eyes away. Must not be blind yet. Who cares. Wow. The fire was long and wide. And it isn't shooting out and stuttering back, but stayed consistent.
At the same time, there are the sounds. You know that moment at the campfire, when some old, dry knot of wood expands and bursts with a crack? It was like that, except instead of sticks it’s building-sized redwood tree trunks cracking over and over. Some of the sounds were small, and they tapped my eardrums. The bigger ones gently puffed against my face and neck. There’s no pattern to it; no match-up to the shape of the fire.
As the rocket turns away, the shape of the flames changed from a streak to a dot. Like the world’s biggest star falling in reverse. A crazy thought went through my head to make a wish; some old instinct misfiring. It’s not wishing time, but it’s time to try and relate this to something else I know. My newborn son comes into my mind. I thought about how he makes me feel, and how he’ll feel when he sees one of these one day.
The depth of the dot changes quickly, moving away. I suddenly remember there are people on-board and feel a flash of fear, study the bright dot and make sure that nothing was going wrong. I remember the story Mike Massimino told us yesterday. How it’s a like a beast grabbing you, pulling you into the sky, and you just hope it knows where it’s going. I say a quick prayer for their safety.
The dot disappears behind the clouds and I look down to the water, to the shore, and back up to the contrail...clouds that man, not nature, has made.