Today was a really good day to watch a launch. Around 10:30 am my office mates and I went up on the roof of our building (it's three stories) to wait for Discovery's launch. We were joined by about 20 others from other companies; all told we had between 3 and 4 dozen observers on the roof. One of the watchers was a woman whose husband worked on the countdown team. She called his office to check if there was any hold, and was told that the shuttle was ready to go in about 10 seconds. Sure enough, looking east, we saw a brief flash as the engines lit off. There were clouds on the horizon so it was another long 20 seconds before the shuttle lifted over the cloud tops and we had a clear view of the shuttle. We all stood and waited silently, until the rumble of the engines finally reached us (in Orlando) and then we started talking a little. The shuttle continued to lift higher and higher. When it finally diminished to a little dot we all started moving back towards the stairs and back to work. Everybody was in great spirits for the rest of the day.
And now I'm sitting on pins and needles while NASA looks to see if any debris that was seen falling away from the spacecraft could have dire consequences. One image, showing a section of heat tile near the nose gear doors falling away, has me worried most of all. I hope that they go out and look at the shuttle after docking with the ISS. We don't need another repeat of Columbia.
I had Columbia on my mind when I first wrote this. Sorry for substituting Columbia for Discovery.