National Geographic

STS-130 Launch Coverage: Launch!

By Susan Poulton

for Breaking Orbit

The space shuttle Endeavour successfully launched tonight at 4:14am ET after a last minute scare that the weather was not going to cooperate at the back up landing sites in Europe. They cleared up long enough for the shuttle to get off the ground and it was a spectacular lift off.

I’ve seen many launches, but being on the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building was a once in a lifetime experience, especially for a night launch. The sky literally turns from night to day, and the shockwave shook the entire building beneath my feet. It felt like I was watching the launch from an other-worldly vantage point. The air was so crisp and cold, a rarity for Florida, that you could see the shuttle all the way into space, until main engine cut off seven to eight minutes later as a small glowing dot that wavered in brightness and then faded to a deep red and disappeared.


—Image Credit: Susan Poulton

shuttle_launch2.jpg—Image Credit: Susan Poulton.

roof_photogs.jpg—Image Credit: Susan Poulton. Photographers gather on the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building preparing to photograph the launch.

This launch begins the 13-day mission of STS-130 with including three spacewalks and the installation of the Tranquility node. For the full launch timeline, visit NASA’s STS-130 overview at and watch NASA TV online at

—Susan Poulton works for National Geographic Digital Media and is a self-proclaimed space geek. Since graduating from Space Camp in 1987, she’s been fascinated by all things space and can’t resist sharing this passion with others. A veteran of 12 launches (and over 30 launch attempts), she has attempted to see every space shuttle launch since STS-114 in 2005.