Last week, I spent roughly three days doing reseach/planning, eight hours driving (split between two road trips) and stood around for another half dozen hours. This was all done in order take to make a single exposure that lasted for 167 seconds and had no chance for a do-over. The subject of all this effort was space shuttle Discovery as she and her crew launched from Kennedy Space Center for mission STS-128.

Here is the result:

Flight trail of space shuttle Discovery's launch for mission STS-128

As far as I'm concerned, it's completely worth the effort.

Of course, since the above image was made with a camera sitting on a tripod, I was also able to do some shooting with a telephoto lens for a more traditional liftoff image.

Space shuttle Discovery liftoff for mission STS-128

Finally, I had planned to attach my point and shoot camera to the tripod and shoot some video as well, but the crappy flexpod I bought that day fell apart on me. So, I ended up setting the little camera directly on the ground and crossing my fingers. I couldn't get a clear view of the sky, but figured it was worth a shot anyway. The resulting video falls squarely in the "Happy Accident" category.

(Note: At about 1:50 seconds into the video, the rumble that starts is the sound from engines. It took that long for it to get to where I was shooting from. Prior to that, the all the rocket noise is coming from the audio on the radio. The announcer was obviously much closer.)

To give credit where it's due:

  • Thanks to Dr. T.S. Kelso from for helping make sure I was setup to capture the entire flight path.
  • For a great set of notes on shooting launches, visit this page on
  • K4GCC (146.940) retransmission of the NASA audio which you hear in the video.
  • M.C. for letting me borrow some additional gear.