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[39/365] STS-130: Endeavour Shuttle Launch

Monday, February 8, 2010 - 4:14 AM EST


Note: Best viewed while listening to Mission Control on SomaFM.


Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the space shuttle Endeavour. Its 13-day mission: to install a connecting module to the International Space Station that will (1) expand the area for crew members, life support, and environmental control systems; and (2) provide a panoramic view of Earth, celestial objects, and visiting spacecrafts through a 7-window cupola. To boldly go where few humans have gone before.


(I couldn't resist. What can I say? Witnessing our shuttle program's final night launch makes one a bit sappy.)


Almost 24 hours after Sunday morning's early morning launch was scrubbed due to unfavorable weather, Endeavour successfully ascended into space under perfect viewing conditions. It was poetic -- a tiny glowing sun swiftly rose, traversed the sky, and disappeared amongst the stars.


I'm not a morning person, and two consecutive days of pre-dawn awakening is a danger that I would normally avoid. At that hour, I typically wake in a state of confusion and have conversations with the voices in my alarm clock. However, I managed to pop out of bed at approximately 4:10 AM, grabbed my camera and tripod, and stepped outside my back door into what felt like an icebox to set up just in time. My settings and framing were similar to those I used for the Discovery launch last August. Granted, that shot was taken at a shorter focal length and cropped quite a bit, but it's incredible to compare the low light sensitivity of the D60 vs. the D700! Interestingly, Discovery's booster exhaust plume was visible, whereas Endeavour's was not -- presumably due to the dryer air and a slight wind.


I'm pleased with the shadow detail & the wispy patches of cirrus clouds. And how 'bout those star trails?! I didn't get to set a shutter delay, which caused the slight hiccup at the beginning of the shuttle trail. The Nikon 80-200mm is known for ghosting & lens flares, and my lens captured a few. I attempted to minimize them in post-production; you can especially see them at large view. I adjusted the white balance to counteract some of the sodium vapor light from street lamps.


There's no way to capture the true awesomeness of a night launch. I just tried to make it look cool. Let me know what you think!

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Taken on February 8, 2010