Shuttle porn

This has been on my To Watch list for some time. With the final launch of the shuttle Discovery on Thursday, it seemed time to finally view it.

“Ascent” is 45 minutes of the finest footage culled from the 125 cameras that monitor each and every shuttle launch. It varies from 16 mm cameras sitting practically on top of the solid rocket boosters, to 35 mm cameras located at the edge of the launch pad or even further away, to high definition cameras sporting 4,000 mm lenses located some 20 miles from the launch site.

It is pure shuttle pornography.

As always, it’s best to watch this in 720p and full screen. The earlier images will seem a bit fuzzy, but it’s really worth it as you progress through the cameras. Two commentators provide fascinating bits of information on what you’re seeing, including such brain-bending statistics as “the solid rocket boosters shed 10,000 pounds of mass every second.” Each of them.

I was also quite startled to learn that when the boosters separate from the shuttle at 29 miles in altitude, they don’t immediately drop back to Earth. It always looks like that in the footage, but that’s an illusion. In reality, they continue another 15 miles upward before their speed finally bleeds off enough for gravity to take over, and they tumble back to land in the Atlantic, some 150 miles from the launch site.

There’s a lot to love in here, but I think my favorite segment begins at 30:50. It’s just beautiful — shuttle porn at its finest.

(Note: the first several seconds feature just a voice but no video. It’s not an issue with your browser.)

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About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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3 Responses to Shuttle porn

  1. Karen says:

    THANK YOU for finding and posting this. This is just a stunning piece and a must see for shuttle freaks like myself. I live on the west coast of Florida and can see the contrails from a shuttle launch if the sky is clear. My favorites, however, are the night launches which cause me to go into geek overload. And on the rare occasion that the shuttle flies over us to land at Kennedy, the sonic boom can make me positively giddy.

  2. xenatuba says:

    Really, really awesome. Thanks for posting this.

    The only time I have been anywhere close to Kennedy when there was to be a shuttle landing, our family was in Orlando, and leaving the day of the landing. We were gathered outside, looking up…only there was nothing…it was the Columbia. My sister in law (a pilot) came outside, tears streaming down her face and said “there won’t be a landing”.

  3. oregon expat says:

    Karen: You’re welcome! And I’m quite envious of your location. A shuttle sonic boom would be awesome.

    xenatuba: What a sad story. I remember the giant photograph on the front page of the Register-Guard the next day, of the shuttle pieces scattering as they descended at differing speeds. After Challenger, losing Columbia felt like a bad dream. How could it happen again?? But I think the very success of the space shuttle program had lulled a lot of us into believing that space flight had become ordinary. It was not then, and is not now. Every successful mission is a triumph against the million things that can go wrong. That there have been 129 triumphs (so far) is a true testament to the miracles we humans can pull off — and the courage of astronauts who know that each flight is a new gamble.

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