Shuttle Atlantis takes off — and I check one off my bucket list

Atlantis on the launch pad at 5:30 Friday morning.
MinnPost photo by Peter Koeleman
Atlantis on the launch pad at 5:30 Friday morning.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — This is a wish come true for me, a BIG item on my bucket list.

I had many chances and many missed opportunities during my 33 years as a newspaper photojournalist to cover a shuttle launch. But I somehow could not get it together to actually do it. I was to go last summer — but three days before that picture-perfect launch, I broke my ankle. I had to be content watching the launch, yet again, on TV.

It seemed that it was just not meant to be.

But today I found myself standing 3.1 miles from the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center keenly watching the countdown clock ticking down for to the launch of shuttle mission ST 135, Atlantis.

This is the last shuttle mission, 30 years after the first one, bringing to an end of this nation’s boldest space programs.

On Thursday, a gloomy weather forecast put the chance of today’s launch at 30 percent. But by early this morning — I arrived at the space center around 3:30 a.m. — the skies began to clear and the confidence level rose.

The space shuttle Atlantis taking off Friday morning.
MinnPost photo by Peter Koeleman
The space shuttle Atlantis taking off Friday morning.

Excitement also grew as spectators — estimated at as high as 1 million — moved into the launch area, jamming roads and parking lots.

Soon the countdown was under one minute. Then at 31 seconds…a delay. No, I’d have to wait again. But it turned out, less than a minute. Then, the countdown began again – and a perfect launch.  

Check one off the bucket list.

The space shuttle Atlantis heading toward the international space station.
MinnPost photo by Peter Koeleman
The space shuttle Atlantis heading toward the international space station.

Peter Koeleman is a Minneapolis freelance photojournalist.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Daniel Barnes on 07/09/2011 - 12:48 am.

    Congrats, Peter! Nice photos!

  2. Submitted by Teri Spano-Madden on 07/11/2011 - 12:10 pm.

    Whoa Baby! Those photos are amazing, especially Atlantis @ 5:30 AM. Nice way to check off your list.

  3. Submitted by David Willard on 07/11/2011 - 07:40 pm.

    And Obama stops another successful program in favor of pet fundraising buddies

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