If you think the days of staring in amazement at NASA space launches are behind us, you’re wrong.
There are no space shuttles leaving the United States at the moment, but NASA is still launching three communication satellites into orbit. The first capsule, known as TDRS-K, launched on Wednesday at 8:48 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. TDRS stands for Tracking and Data Relay Satellite.
The next one, TDRS-L, is scheduled for launch in 2014. The manufacturing process for the final satellite in the trio, TDRS-M, will be completed in 2015.
NASA says these new satellites are designed with a higher performance solar panel, which should help improve power and return faster communications to the ground.
Take a look at the video above for an up-close view of the rumbling rocket, the take-off from base and a glowing stream of fire and smoke.
It started as a dot - a bright, white star that raced across the Southwest.
Over Texas, the dot became a streak that thickened, then spawned smaller streaks - "little sparklies," Linda Steed recalled.
Then came the sound - "a big, rolling boom," she said. "The dog started barking like crazy."
A decade ago, 200,000 feet above Steed's driveway in Nacogdoches, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart on re-entry. All seven astronauts aboard died.
By James Dinan, CNN
I remember where I was when I learned of the space shuttle Columbia tragedy.
I was in a classroom on the campus of George Washington University in Washington that Saturday, February 1, 2003, volunteering as a reader for a college quiz bowl tournament – think a team version of “Jeopardy!” I was eating lunch with other staffers when the tournament director raced into our room. He apologized for running late but explained it was because he had just learned what happened to Columbia.
After briefly telling us what he had found out, he sent us with our question packets to the game rooms, where the teams were waiting. But before we left, the director asked that, before the first question was read, we let the players know about Columbia and allow a brief moment of silence for prayer and/or reflection.
I don’t remember much about that day after the tournament director’s announcement, and I doubt that many of the players and fellow staff do as well. Wins and losses didn’t really matter that Saturday as our minds were focused on the lives lost on Columbia.
Click on the above video to look back at CNN’s coverage of the Columbia tragedy and comment below on what you remember about that day.