Have you, like us, been missing the rumble and hiss of a good old-fashioned NASA launch? Since the space shuttle retired this summer, there have been a few space payload deliveries, sure — but it's just not the same when it's not a human launch system we're talking about. There was always something special about that guttural roar and plume of white steam streaming from the launchpad.
Jim Paulsen and his team of rocket scientists didn't breathe for about 8 minutes the afternoon of May 11. Paulsen and scores of others were focused on watching the space shuttle Atlantis blast toward the heavens, carrying 7 astronauts and one of the most complicated and celebrated payloads in NASA history. As is the case with every launch, Paulsen doesn't sigh with relief until the shuttle's main engines, his baby for 25 years, shut down.