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!