Gallery: Midnight Shuttle Rollout

Article written: 2 Mar , 2010
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
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It was a dark and windy night. But then the Xenon spotlights hit space shuttle Discovery as it inched out of the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center, lighting up the darkness. The lights didn’t help the wind any, but the gleaming shuttle stack on top of the crawler/transporter was a beautiful sight to behold. I was told that first motion of the shuttle out of the VAB hasn’t been open to the press for many years, (since the return to flight mission in 1988) and so I felt privileged to witness the event. Especially stunning was a unique silhouette shadow of the shuttle stack that formed against the clouds as the spotlights glared (see below). Photographer Alan Walters and I both snapped some shots, and I’ve now updated this post to include daylight photos of Discovery at the pad.

The shuttle stack was silhouetted in shadow against the clouds. Image: Nancy Atkinson

I’m feeling pretty smug about this shot! I talked to some other photographers who weren’t able to capture the shadow effect in the clouds. For once, my dinky little camera out-performs the big guys! But the shadow/silhouette was a very cool thing to see, indeed. One of the people at the press site, a veteran of over 60 rollouts, said he had never seen anything like that before!

Discovery just emerging from the VAB. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Xenon lights bathe the shuttle stack. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

Proof that Nancy was there! Image credit: Larry from NASASpaceflight.com (thanks Larry!)


Close-up of the shuttle stack. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today.

Discovery heading out the launchpad 39A. Image: Nancy Atkinson

As I drove out of the KSC press site, Discovery rolling out to the pad was visible in my rear view mirror! No rest for the sleepy (it is 3 am local time as I post this) — will get about 2 hours sleep, then head back out to KSC to see Discovery at the pad in daylight.

UPDATE: Here are the daylight photos!

With the crawlerway in the foreground, Discovery sits on pad 39A early 3/3/2010. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

The view of Discovery on 39A from a different location. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

A view from the flame trench. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

The crawler sits just outside Pad 39A after depositing Discovery. Image: Alan Walters (awaltersphoto.com) for Universe Today

About a half an hour later, we returned to the launchpad to do some interviews, and just as we finished the sun came out! So here is a “sunshine” photo of Discovery.

Sunshine! Image: Nancy Atkinson

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6 Responses

  1. Jon Hanford says

    Nice pics of the stack rollout! It must have been chilly in Florida at the early hour. 🙂

  2. DrFlimmer says

    Very nice pics, indeed! Thanks for sharing, and for being up to be able to share them! 🙂

  3. ronsmytheiii says

    just so you know, made a tjmelapse from first motion till hard down:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SKsHPw_0_A

  4. Jon Hanford says

    Nancy, your great article on the Shuttle rollout is being spammed. FYI

  5. vino says

    The pics are beautiful and breathtaking Nancy, Thank you so much for sharing…..

  6. Jon Hanford says

    @ronsmytheiii, what a great (last?) nighttiime rollout collage. Many memorable views! 🙂

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