2 Unique Photos Captured Space Shuttle Endeavour’s Final Flight

The Space Shuttle Endeavor took off on its final flight on May 16, 2011, with one more flight left scheduled for the Space Shuttle Atlantis.  As of Monday, Endeavour had logged more than 116 million miles, circled the Earth some 4,500 times, spent 283 days in space and carried 170 people, including the last two people to fly a Space Shuttle for the first time.  Once Atlantis flies, it will be three years, at best, before Americans are launched again from U.S. soil.   This was a once in a lifetime event but even for those who missed the launch, a lucky few managed to take photographs of Endeavor’s flight into space as it happened.

As the Space Shuttle Endeavour embarked on its last mission, two photos captured the first few moments of the launch: one from a helium-filled weather balloon, and another from an airline passenger's iPhone.

STS-134 launch as seen from an iPhone on a Delta flight. Courtesy: Stefanie Gordon

The first picture had been shot with an iPhone.  Stefanie Gordon, a passenger on a Delta flight from New York to Palm Beach, Florida, witnessed the Space Shuttle break through a layer of clouds and continue to soar up into space.  Thinking quickly, she pulled out her iPhone and immediately began taking pictures and video of this amazing sight.  She knew she captured something remarkable when she uploaded her pictures to Twitter and, soon after, her phone “just started going crazy” with notifications for new Twitter followers.  Within a few hours, she was fielding phone calls from ABC, the BBC, and CNBC.

As the Space Shuttle Endeavour embarked on its last mission, two photos captured the first few moments of the launch: one from a helium-filled weather balloon, and another from an airline passenger's iPhone.

STS-134 launch as seen from Senatobia-1 Balloon at 64,000 ft. Courtesy: Quest For Stars

The second picture was planned and taken by a balloon camera. “Senatobia-1” was launched from Bronson Sports Complex in Bronson, Florida at 7:30 am on the morning of the launch by Quest for Stars, an educational non-profit organization promoting Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) studies.  The helium-filled balloon caught Endeavour’s flight path in a series of five pictures as it reached 64,000 feet.  The camera payload ultimately reached over 95,000 feet before the balloon burst, releasing the payload for a parachute landing and recovery by Quest for Stars’ ground crew.

Both of these photographs will go down in history as capturing the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final flight from two unique perspectives.  With any luck, the Space Shuttle Atlantis will be documented by future scientists, engineers, and astronauts who wish to take part in NASA’s next generation of manned missions to outer space.

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Joie Montoya
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