Live The Story: David Shukman
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Live The Story: David Shukman on the space shuttle's final flight

BBC Science Editor David Shukman describes what it was like to report on the shuttle's last launch.

"The atmosphere was really tense because this was the last flight of a space shuttle, so there was a lot of emotion amongst all the NASA people. Huge crowds had turned out. A lot of local people and tourists had gathered and there were about a million people in that part of Florida.

It was a very hot, sultry day. The atmosphere seemed to be made more electric because of the threat of storms out over the Atlantic.

We were gathered there with hundreds of media people, all wanting to be a witness to this moment of space history. My cameraman and I chose a spot that was clear of other people, with a nice view of the launch pad, across a swamp.

In the distance you see this enormous tower, like a scaffolding tower, and the white body of the space shuttle attached to the bright orange of the main fuel tank. A very distinctive sight, but three miles away. What I was very interested to try to capture for viewers was not just the sight, because actually we are all quite familiar with what it looks like, but what it feels like.

I had heard about the length of time it takes for the sound waves to reach you from the launch pad over three miles away. So, we got ready and there was the countdown. Then there was a silence and then suddenly there's this dazzling light that flashes at you from the base of the launch pad - and that's ignition.

Then there's a sound that starts to creep towards you a little bit later and you see the great structure rising past the launch pad and I knew at that, at roughly 20 seconds after the launch, the main waves of sound from the two solid rocket boosters, these great two long cylinders strapped to the side of the shuttle, that those would produce the most bone-shaking kind of sound and these waves of intense, deep crackling came rolling across the swamp towards me.

I had been warned that I would feel them inside and then I did. I mean it's one of things that is, stunning when it happens, that your insides do go jelly-like when these waves hit you and it was the most mesmerising experience.

The sound was deeper, louder, almost more violent than many things I have ever experienced before and a hush, obviously, fell over the crowds because everybody was just spellbound by this experience of feeling the sound and then watching the rocket just blasting off through the sky, getting lost in the clouds and then occasionally bursts of brilliant white light would come through a gap in the clouds and you knew that the shuttle was accelerating towards 17,000 miles an hour, the speed it needs to get to break free of earth's gravity and make it into orbit.

It was one of the most wonderful, uplifting experiences I have ever taken part in."

Read David's report on preparations for the shuttle's final flight

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