Yeah, rocket launches are some of most awe-inspiring sights to watch. I had a link in the Headlines today about the one you write about being the last of the Titan IV launches.
On March 22, 1996, at 3:13:04 a.m. EST, my family and I were fortunate enough to have a causeway pass to Cape Canaveral to witness the Space ShuttleSTS-76 launch. We arrived at around 7:00 PM and brought an alarm clock along to wake us up at around 2:00 AM. It was an absolutely perfectly clear night with no wind, and the launch occurred exactly on time, with not even a one second delay.
The rumble and noise was unimaginable, and the reflection of the exhaust on the Banana River augmented the blinding flash at ignition. It makes you proud to be an American to witness such magnificant technology. But, alas, it was all over almost as quickly as it began. At about a mile away, it took around 5 seconds for the sound to reach us. The shuttle accelerated astonishingly quickly and was well off the launch pad by the time the noise could be heard.
Unlike the old Saturn V heavy booster of the Apollo era, that seemed to dwell forever at ignition and slowly lift off the pad, the shuttles are more like Estes model rockets. Even with binoculars, the craft was out of sight (other than a dot) in moments. That's where watching on TV is a plus. Still, I would not trade the experience for a radar-guided, high-mag camera view.
STS-76 Launch Videohttp://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/mis ... launch.mpg
- Kirt Blattenberger
RF Cafe Progenitor & Webmaster