The very last Space Shuttle Launch was on July 8th, and Jeff and I decided (kind of at the last minute) that we'd get a car and make the drive down to the launch.
We left Wednesday evening, spent the night in Florence, South Carolina, and got to Cocoa Beach in time for the official launch parties on Thursday night. We ran into friends at the parties and had a really good time. We were going to stay with our friend, Pete, in Melbourne Beach, but Stephanie offered to let us crash on her couch in Cocoa Beach. Since we were planning to be up by 5:15 the next morning to beat traffic to the 11:26am launch, that was much better.
The traffic in the morning was not too bad. Our friend had given us his tickets to the NASA Kennedy Visitor's Center (he'd gotten tickets to an even better viewing spot), and we didn't hit any traffic until the line of cars actually entering the visitors' center.
The weather had been really bad all week, and was forecast to be bad over the weekend, so most people (including us) were kind of expecting the launch to be scrubbed. But we parked and found a spot anyway.
At the visitor's center, there was a big clearing where most people had set up chairs and things. This made it possible to see the shuttle come up above the trees. The countdown just kept going smoothly and the sun kept peaking out until finally the countdown got so low that everyone started to get really excited that it really would go. Then there was a hold at 31 seconds, which definitely made everyone nervous, but they got the glitch cleared up, and the final countdown began!
We saw the shuttle come up above the trees - it really just looks like a very bright point of light - and then heard the rumble of the sound wave. It seemed like everyone there was teary-eyed. I was just holding my camera at my side (not looking through the view-finder), but I did manage to catch a bit of it.
It was pretty amazing to witness such a historic event in person. The last shuttle launch. I can't believe it.