STS-117 Atlantis – Bon Voyage!

Congratulations to NASA on a very successful launch of STS-117 Atlantis. Dan Arildson, Vivian Atlas, Rob Tiffany and I were at Paul's Smokehouse restaurant in Titusville, Florida to watch the launch of STS-117 Space Shuttle Atlantis. It was an amazing experience, to be able to see the launch with your own eyes. STS-117 too has a meaningful ring to it because all of our offices are in Building 117 back at the campus.

It took us a good 3 hours to drive 30 miles to Titusville because of the HUGE jam caused by the toll gates and the huge amount of people heading out that direction.

here's what it looked like 9 minutes before the launch. We arrived just in time.


There were literally thousands of people along the shore lines waiting for the countdown. We could hear the faint voice of the office in the mission control center over one of the radios in the parked cars and everybody started counting down, 5, 4, 3, 2... silence.. for the next 45 seconds you see a cloud of smoke and a rising, blinding flash of light.


As the plume of smoke continues to rise, we stare in awe at the scene right in front of us. The beautiful blue skies, wide open space and miles of flat land and sea stretching till the horizon, and in the middle of this sea of nothingness, we see this small shuttle carrying it's precious cargo and it's huge booster rockets streaking up to the sky, generating a huge trail of dense smoke in its wake.


Almost a minute later, the roar of the engines from the liftoff assaults everyone on the beach, causing a huge gasp from the crowd followed by an equally thundering applause. It's a deep trembling sound that you feel deep in your body.


We could actually follow it and still see, with the naked eye, the booster rockets being jettisoned, and when that happened, the crowd roared and cheered in applause again.


We stayed until we couldn't see the shuttle anymore and went back into Paul's Smokehouse to have some Amber Bock while waiting for three hours before getting a place to sit for dinner.

You can watch launch videos and look at nicer pictures at the NASA Space Shuttle website here:

Direct link to videos:

I just wished Raeven and Skyler were here to see the launch, it would have taught them about the amazing feats the human mind and body can achieve AND that this country they live in can provide the means and resources for them to see their dreams come true.

Comments (6)

  1. Congratulations on seeing your first live launch – they are absolutely amazing aren’t they?

    You can watch it on TV several times but seeing it in person makes it even more real.  

    Thanks for sharing the experience.


  2. Loke Uei says:

    Thanks Rich. If I can, I’d want to watch the remaining few launches live. It’s sad that they’re retiring the shuttle. I can only imagine how those folks over at the Cape Canaveral vantage point must have felt when the booster fired, I think they could have felt the heat too.

    I can do without the outgoing jam though. I think those guys took 6 hours to get back to Orlando.

  3. Sean says:

    Awesome pictures, thanks for sharing! I’m glad there’s still people interested in the space program and who are willing to brave tolls and traffic jams to get the awe feeling of seeing a launch!

  4. RichardJones says:

    Wow, Loke.

    Was it loud?

    Richard Jones

  5. MathiasR says:

    I have some more pictures on my blog. I’ve been watching the start with a group of TechEd Technical Learning Guides. From your pictures it looks like you must have been somewhere near the place from which we were watching the launch. I’ll also upload a video soon.


  6. Loke Uei says:

    yeahh it was reallllly loud and its a deep runbling sound that just shakes your soul..

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