*More Edits on Tuesday: Phil Plait blogged the same thing I did. I told him I thought we were wrong now and it was a single image. He tweeted Trey Ratcliff and got this response.
TreyRatcliff Trey Ratcliff
It's still a professionally edited photo, though, and it kind of makes me cringe to see NPR equate this shot to the one somebody took with their camera phone from a plane window. And Phil did it too. And people on Trey's own blog linked to that plane photo in the comments. Dang.
I left NASA TV via SpaceflightNow.com going on the computer at the end of my bed all night so I sort of half-followed the tanking and progress through the countdown. I woke up fully at around 7 when the commentators started grating on my last nerve. Somebody really hosed up the audio. The microphones were way too hot and it was clipping like hell. Then when the countdown got to 0 Livestream started stuttering about every 30 frames. It was intensely annoying. The clouds reflecting the light of the flames back up the ship made the camera feed on the external tank go all overexposed everywhere except the important part, the tiles, which is fine for the engineering but less fun to watch. So I have to say it wasn't my best launch experience. Something was just off today.
I tried to find a better source for NASA TV and came up with Ustream, with beautiful video, but the audio out of sync by at least an entire word. It was good audio though, so I listened to all the press conferences. The standard launch briefing was followed by Gabby Gifford's staff answering questions. Her chief of staff, Pia Carusone, is really good. She gave honest, non-evasive answers to all the questions, most of which were very personal, but for the most part understandable coming from People magazine. I think the Orlando reporter that wrote this is the one that asked how the experience changed the congresswoman's relationship to God. Carusone immediately said, "I don't know. I guess I'd have to ask her," then she tried to think what she was supposed to say and came up with something ambiguous to keep her from getting in trouble with the faithful. "Nobody has ever asked that before," she concluded. Well I'm glad about that! And I'm glad she said "I don't know," instead of producing some pandering pabulum. The reporter clearly couldn't write anything about "I don't know" so it doesn't turn up in the article. It will just warm the cockles of my heart if Gabby Giffords continues to progress through cranioplasty and the rest of her recovery with this kind of spiritual-free dignity.
The reporters tried to get Carusone to give them something sentimental to write but she wouldn't do it. "Did she clasp Mark's wedding ring as the shuttle launched?" "No. I didn't see her do that." She also explained very plainly that the congresswoman sat down for the last few minutes of the countdown because it might have upset her balance to tip her head back as the shuttle went up. They wanted her to be comfortable. That's very sensible I think.
I could find no other mention of the shuttle launch on the People magazine web site. I guess they take that name really literally. Rockets aren't people. Who cares.
Outside the US it is actually news though, including the part where they're going to do some PHYSICS with the cargo in the shuttle. Thank you Guardian.
Tens of thousands of people crowded in and around the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida for the launch of the shuttle's 16-day voyage to deliver $2bn (£1.23bn) worth of astrophysics equipment to the International Space Station, designed to search space for antimatter. Nasa is planning just one more flight, of the Atlantis in July, before the 30-year shuttle programme is shut down.I love this paragraph. It is perfect to go with Endeavour, spelled the British way. "Centre" and "programme" and the pounds conversion point out how foreign this commentary is. Nobody in the US gives 16 ounces about the science. I'm relieved that one media outlet thinks some of their readers are interested.http://www.stuckincustoms.com/2011/05/17/space-shuttle-launch/