Saturday, June 09, 2007

Atlantis lifts off - Amazing images and the giant pencil sharpener

STS-117 lifted off last night and is on its way to the International Space Station.

Back before the web, the only information you could learn about a shuttle launch were the few tidbits that fit into a half-hour broadcast. Today, NASA's website offers more detail about all the work and ingenuity that goes into a launch.

One detail I learned this morning was the tool engineers used to repair the main fuel tank, which took a beating during a hailstorm as Atlantis sat on the launch pad.

A machine, nicknamed "the pencil-sharpener", sanded down the foam on the tank's delicate surface.

Right after a launch, NASA uploads huge hi-res photos of the shuttle to their website. Before, you had to buy an special large-format magazine to see such detail.

Now you can see a launch close-up only hours after it happens.

These are the times where I get chills. We might not live in a perfect EPCOT future, but some of mass communication wonders I saw as a kid in science fiction films and Disney Parks have come true.

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