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On Its Way


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Space Shuttle Discovery rides a stream of fire into the sky from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on March 13, 1989. STS-29R was the 28th Space Shuttle flight and the 8th by Discovery, and the first launch after the Challenger disaster. It was the only launch I photographed at the space center. I witnessed the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and photographed it from 100-miles away. I wanted to see a successful launch before I left the state. And it was spectacular.

I was leaving Tampa, Florida, to move to New York and made a call to my friend, Peter Cosgrove, to ask if there was any way I could photograph the launch of Discovery as a stop on my journey back to the northeast. He hired me as a stringer and I had three phenomenal photo shoots during the three days I spent at Cape Kennedy. I photographed Discovery the night before its launch sitting majestically against a brilliant red sky on Pad 39-B.

The day before on March 12, 1989, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was rolled out from the Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation for an April 28, 1989, launch. The STS-30 Magellan mission finally launched on May 4, 1989. Seeing the NASA workers walking beside their pride and joy was a poignant moment for me. I have read many histories of NASA and the people involved, many I consider American heroes. I was honored to witness NASA at work.

On the morning of the launch, Pete assigned me to the fire tower at Cape Kennedy, a platform just three miles from the pad. My escort and I were the only two on the tower and all alone in the wildness of Cape Kennedy. When the "candle lit" and Discovery jumped from the ground, the sound hit us like a physical blow and the ground shook from the force of its flight. I struggled to keep my extreme telephoto lens trained on Discovery as she roared through the sky. I couldn't believe how fast this object, the size of a nine-story building, escaped our planet. The feeling of power was indescribable. One of my greatest moments as a photographer.

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