Space Shuttle & Other Rocket Launches

Click on a scaled down photo icon (if avail.) to see it's full-scale representation.

[STS-81 Launch]

Space Shuttle Launch (STS-81) - January 12, 1997 @ 04:27am EST


Copyright (C) 1997 by Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
Scanned for me by Steve King/KC6WCH, using his own color sheet scanner. (Thanks, Steve!)

`The SKY is on fire! The SKY is on fire!'

Is this a photograph of the sky burning over Gainesville, Florida? Maybe it's just a simple photograph of a fiery sunset?

On January 12th, 1997, at about 30 seconds past 4:27am EST, the Space Shuttle `Atlantis,' on mission STS-81 to rendezvous and dock with the MIR Space Station, was launched from Pad-39A at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

This is how the launch appeared from just south of Gainesville, Fla., about 125 miles north-west of the Cape, from the edge of SR 441 at the Paynes Prairie State Preserve. The early morning sky was almost completely overcast, with numerous but tiny breaks in the cloud cover. Thinking my attempt at a photo largely doomed, I decided to take a shot at a time exposure anyway. The shuttle's SRB contrail can be seen peeking through the clouds at the base of this picture, and through breaks in the clouds further up along the ascent path.

In this 90-second time exposure -- beginning at 4:28am, as soon as a faint orange glow could be seen to begin just below the horizon -- the shuttle's SRBs appear to light up the sky behind the clouds. Lights from a distant city below the horizon and outside of the field of view also illuminated the moving undersides of the clouds. All of the light cumulatively gathered in the length of this long exposure makes the sky falsely seem to appear as bright as day (at least...so it seems in the original). This is a somewhat eerie-looking scene to me.

Exposure was approximately 90 seconds using a used Mamiya MSX-1000 35mm SLR camera and a 50mm/f2.8 lens set at f3.5, using Kodak Royal Gold 1000 color print film. With a temperature here in the 20s at the time (believe it or not), my fingers were actually getting numb from the cold and the breeze -- and I dared not wonder what the wind chill might be.

After this photo, I hung around to use up the film taking advantage of the large breaks in the clouds that started to appear and shot some time exposures of the visible constellations. Just as I used up the roll, I began to hear what sounded like rather large rustlings in the bushes nearby my position just off the side of the highway. Remembering that the Prairie *is* inhabited with gators and other such not-nice-to-think-about beasts, I promptly packed up and drove away home...leaving whatever was causing the sound alone to have the small bit of territiory that I had been temporarily using to itself if it so wanted.

The scan, even though it is in 16 million colors, still does not do the original justice, due to the relatively low resolution and the limits of the particular sheet scanner used. In the original photo, the shuttle's SRB contrail can actually be seen more definitely peeking through the cloud breaks, as well as at the base of the clouds on the horizon.

I guess this isn't bad for a first-time attempt. I'd only got the camera for Christmas about two weeks beforehand, and really knew nothing about 35mm photography. (I still don't; but I'm learning.)

[STS-82 Launch]

Space Shuttle Launch (STS-82) - February 11, 1997 @ 04:57am EST

Yet another night-time shuttle launch from Paynes Prairie. Used Mamiya MSX-1000 35mm SLR camera, approx. 90 seconds, f1.8, 50mm lens. Kodak Royal Gold 200 color print film. Again, clouds affect the view. (What's new?) One of these days I'll get the aim centered correctly. Second try and you'd think I could get the aim correctly by now. :(


Space Shuttle Launch (STS-86) - September 25, 1997 @ 09:34pm EST

Copyright (C) 1997 by Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
(Scanned using my weepy-cheapy Logitech B/W hand-scanner.)

Off the side of the road along US-441 between High Springs and Gainesville, I started this exposure. Seconds after opening the shutter comes a member of High Springs Finest to park right behind me -- with strobe lights going and headlights on bright. Figures. Cloudy night.

Using f/1.8, 50mm lens, about 3 minutes.


Launch of Cassini Space Probe to Saturn - October 15, 1997 @ 04:43am EST

Copyright (C) 1997 by Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
(Scanned using my weepy-cheapy Logitech B/W hand-scanner.)

From same place. Using f/1.8, 50mm lens, about 5 minutes. Miraculously, no clouds, clear sky, even a bright star near the apex of the ascent.


Space Shuttle Launch (STS-89) - January 22, 1998 @ 09:39pm EST

Copyright (C) 1998 by Todd L. Sherman/KB4MHH
(Scanned using my weepy-cheapy Logitech B/W hand-scanner.)

From same place. Tried f/6 this time, rather than full open, 50mm lens, about 3 minutes. As usual, lots of clouds in the way. This launch harder to see, but nonetheless there.


[ Main Home Page] [ Astrophoto Main Page] [ Top of Page]
Created: April 6, 1996.
Last Updated: May 08, 2011.

Mail to: Todd L. Sherman (afn09444@afn.org)
© Copyright 1995-2011 by Todd L. Sherman. All Rights Reserved.