Hitch a ride on Endeavour's last flight


After the tragedy of space shuttle Columbia’s disintegration on re-entry back in 2003, NASA became understandably¬†obsessed¬†with being able to see their orbiters from as many angles as possible, at least throughout the critical launch phase. This was the period of time during which a chunk of insulating foam broke off Columbia’s external fuel tank, ultimately leading to the damaged heat tiles that caused the unforgettable incident.

And while that moment in NASA’s history is one of the saddest, it has lead to this moment: thanks to their heightened awareness of launch complications, NASA now records these events from a variety of angles.

On Endeavour’s last flight, and the second-to-last shuttle flight ever, NASA installed cameras on Endeavour’s solid rocket boosters. These cameras give four points of view: looking up (toward the shuttle’s nose), looking down (toward the shuttle’s tail), looking toward the external fuel tank and looking up from inside the nose-cone of the booster – a view which only comes into play once the three chutes have been deployed.

For NASA, this footage represents invaluable safety and performance data. For us, it’s a chance to ride along on one of the most amazing human inventions ever made.

As you watch, keep in mind, this is 36 minutes of video compiled from both of the solid boosters as well as a camera aboard Endeavour. While it’s fun to watch the whole thing, here are some highlights:

0:16 – Lift-off as seen from the downward-facing camera

2:25 – solid rocket booster separation as seen from the downward-facing camera

6:50 – Splashdown of solid rocket booster as seen from the downward-facing camera

7:40 – Lift-off as seen from the upward-facing camera

9:38 – solid rocket booster separation as seen from the upward-facing camera

14:50 – solid rocket booster separation as seen from the inter-tank camera

18:50 – deployment of the three drag chutes as seen from inside the nose-cone

19:16 – splashdown as seen from inside the nose-cone

The remainder of the video is essentially these same moments viewed from other angles. But it’s all spectacular. Enjoy!

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13 comments

  1. Kirk Bauder

    Fantastic!!!!
    It’s a shame that the shuttle program is ending.
    We need to be in space. Looking through a telescope is just not enough. We need to be there, to actually touch.
    Thanks NASA

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  2. Jimix

    This is the final flight for probably this century of this type of winged design and if it restarts in even better than this, not till the next century at the pace space research is going.
    If unmanned probes are the future for a long time, severak expeditions with either a near speed of light or above it should be tried on the nearest stars and that is more realistic than going to just mars believe or not.

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  3. Happa

    What great pictures!
    This is all very thrilling and a great hobby for the astronauts and NASA team and it’s great that they found tax payers to fund these multi-billion dollar adventures. Has anything worthwhile ever come of this that couldn’t have been done down here where the rest of us live?

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      • Happa

        I believe we would have had computers without space travel and if not they came at a HUGE price.

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    • spacefan

      The fact that your even able to make that comment online is partially because of the research and development for space travel. No space exploration… no no cel phones, no GPS, no satellite tv, maybe not even any computers. And the internet was conceived as a research tool for scientists and engineers like the ones who developed space science and technology. Even the freeze dried food you may take on a camping trip came from space research. So has anything happened of use? just about everything you use in your daily life today that wasn’t invented before WW2 has a connection to space!

      Like

  4. Ron Bates

    Spectacular : this quality technology demonstrates the strides NASA takes to provide safety factors for astronauts but also a look at how this can be applied to commercial airlines and airliners . In the early eighties during a summer shuttle launch and in it’s following days my son an eight year old & I headed to our island site in the St.Lawrence River ; the Shuttle after dark and traveling north to south in a star lite night ;the brightest and fastest object in the sky went directly over our look out ; a great moment for us both . In 1981 at a Golf Club near Ottawa International the Enterprise piggy backed then ; at low altitude gave all around a close look and it’s 747 . A great era . rb

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  5. smokey

    What wonderfull footage to see of the shuttle launch ,…almost like being there on the shuttle hanging on by my fingertips !

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  6. Alldayeveryday

    Mining the the asteriod belt! Never mind near earth orbit.
    Moon, Mars here we come, the sooner the better.
    BIG LOVE Y’ALL.

    A.

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  7. Smitty

    Been a fan of all the space explration since Mercury. Going to miss the launches and flights. Hope I live long enough to see people standing on Mars. THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES GUYS AND LADIES.

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  8. Habfanforlife

    Great shots. I’ve watched the SRB footage before, but never so extensively from multiple POVs. That last one was neat with the failed chute. Saw Discovery leave from the Cape (May 2008/Greg Chamitoff’s previous shuttle mission) and it is sad to see this era end.

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  9. shorepointbob

    wow nail biting stuff, I really believed I was hanging on. I wonder what the re-entry speed was at splash down. Is there similar footage of the main fuel tank or is it totalled on re-entry. I think the average US Joe will miss the shuttle in years to come, just like us Brits miss Concorde. After Atlantis its over to you Soyuz. And then that nice Sir Branson chappy..

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  10. Domino

    Wow…who would have guessed while watching the moon landing on a black and white classroom television at the age of 8 I would have been sitting at my computer 43 years later, on a lazy Saturday morning, coffee in hand, watching a shuttle launch in space as though I was hanging on for dear life…still have goosebumps. Thanks for the ride NASA…and the journey

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