For the second year in a row, I find myself writing about covering an event after a 30 year wait. A year ago I wrote about photographing a match at center court at the Wimbledon tennis championships, 30 years after the start of my career. This time I write about seeing my first shuttle launch, 30 years after Columbia the first shuttle lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center.
It almost feels like yesterday, sitting in the United Press Canada photo office in Toronto in April 1981 watching that first launch. I was a young freelance photographer about to be hired into my first staff job at the news agency when Columbia blasted off on mission STS-1.
I watched the wire photo machine with wide eyes that day as images taken by UPI photographers were transmitted to the world, thinking I hope someday I would have the chance to photograph a launch. Little did I know then it would take me 30 years to the final shuttle launch last Friday to actually see a rocket take off.
Over the past 30 years I could probably come up with 100 reasons for never having had the chance to see a launch. In 2005, my only previous trip to a shuttle launch, I was at Cape Canaveral for the Return to Space flight but as luck would have it, the first attempt was a scrub and I was unable to stay for the actual launch. The past few months I have been anxiously counting down the time to July 8, the launch date of mission STS-135 and one I could actually stay at the Cape for if the first attempt was a scrub.
I arrived at Cape Canaveral on Wednesday and met up with Joe Skipper, our staff photographer from Miami who has photographed well over 100 space shuttle launches and who coordinates our crew of photographers at the Cape. I was immediately taken out to the area around the launch pad where we had about 20 remote camera’s set up to photograph the launch. Our remote camera crew of Scott Audette, Pierre Ducharme and Scott Nesius showed me all the locations the cameras were positioned in to photograph the launch.