Hundreds of visitors watched from the shores of Canaveral National Seashore as the historic space shuttle program launched its last mission aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis.
While the southern district of the seashore is closed prior and until after each launch, Apollo Beach in the northern district is a favorite shuttle viewing area. Weather was a factor right up until launch time, but it was a computer glitch that held up the last launch at 31 seconds. After a 10 minute delay, the Atlantis roared into the sky in a blaze of glory, only to disappear into the clouds seconds later. Even though the shuttle was visible for only a short time, visitors were greeted with the roar and rumble that comes up the beach like a wave.
Since the accident that occurred during the landing of the Columbia on February 1, 2003, the Apollo district of the seashore has been hosting NASA staff operating high definition camera equipment that track the space shuttle as it leaves the launch pad to determine that no debris comes off the vehicle as is ascends. Soon after launch NASA sends a helicopter to retrieve the footage to be viewed back at Kennedy Space Center. This type of debris was determined to be the cause of the Columbia accident.