STS-124 launched on May 31, and pictures of the launch are available here. A space shuttle launch is an amazing thing to behold, even through still photography. The sheer power, the billowing clouds of steam erupting from flame trenches on each side of the launch structure… if that doesn’t inspire awe, frankly I don’t know what will.
Once in a while, though, all that flame and steam and power gets a little more powerful than we expect. After the launch, Kennedy Space Center reported seeing debris flying away during liftoff. It was hard to tell at the time whether the debris came from the launch pad or the shuttle. Turns out it was the pad:
“Wow” was the first thing out of my mouth, followed by the relieved thought, “phew, at least it wasn’t the shuttle.” From the above photo, you can’t really tell how large or extensive the damage is. It looks damaged, don’t get me wrong, but to give an idea of just how much power is coming out the back end of the space shuttle during launch, here’s a sampling of debris photos taken later on: [Read more…] about Phenomenal rocket power