Go baby, GO!
Atlantis launched a little bit ago and as always, I was out in the front yard hoping to see something. All I can still say about it even now is, WOW!"
(Of all times for my camera not to be working . . . and I forgot to take my cell phone with me. Sorry)
If it's a daytime liftoff and the weather conditions are right I can usually see the contrail and if the trajectory is good, follow it for a few minutes as it appears from between but just over the trees and then heads east. Maybe, every once in a while, a quick glimpse of a bit of silver dot from which the contrail seems to be forming.
At night and if the weather conditions are right (which has happened exactly twice) I can see . . . well, it looks something like a teeny-tiny flame from a candle, but it's upside down . . . moving across the sky.
I have never, ever, seen one like this one before. Or for a long.
I spotted the contrail, but it wasn't a long one. Maybe, I thought, if I stayed out there for a while longer it would pick up again. It didn't.
As I was about to go back in the dot of a chase plane -- what I had assumed was a chase plane -- changed color becoming a tiny, shimmering, gold sliver against the blue sky.
The sun's going down. The sun's light is reflecting off the plane . . . holy shit. That's not a plane! That's the Shuttle!!! And it kept getting bigger until . . .
Think of an embroidery needle, the smallest one and fanciest, too, with the eye-end coated of gold. Now, think of just the golden part, moving across the sky.
A northeast trajectory, I guess, because it seemed like I watched it for hours. In reality, it was only minutes but as it finally disappeared and I turned to go back inside . . . I noticed another "chase plane."
Then, boy did I feel stupid. I can't begin to describe how stupid I felt. Maybe what I'd been watching for so long really WASN'T the Shuttle after all. This one looked a lot like the other one had, but a tiny bit bigger, and THIS one HAD a contrail . . .
Then it hit.
THIS golden sliver wasn't the Shuttle. This one was the booster the Shuttle had separated from earlier, arching its way to its own splashdown in the Atlantic.
So, I stayed outside watching until I lost sight of that, too.
Good journey, Atlantis. And may God speed you safely home.