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Shuttle Sunset


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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. This was only the third launch after the Challenger disaster and Discovery was ready to go. The sunset that night preceded a perfect launch day. That same day of March 12, 1989, the Space Shuttle Atlantis was rolled out from the Vehicle Assembly Building in preparation for an April 28, 1989, launch.  Then on the morning of the launch, Pete assigned me to the fire tower at Cape Kennedy, a platform just three miles from the pad. 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.

It was the culmination of all my dreams of photographing a launch by NASA. Those three days were some of the most exciting I had as a photographer, fulfilling a childhood dream of being involved with NASA.

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