Sunday, April 12, 1981


When Andrew and I got up, Mum and Dad had already gone on a hike, so Andrew made us both an omelet and chips and we settled down in front of the box to wait for the Shuttle launch at one. Everything seemed to be going smoothly, the Shuttle gleaming white on pad 39A, and Kieran Prendiville explaining that the mood had changed from Friday's carnival to one of expectant seriousness. Around a million people were there, all tense and praying.

The minutes passed, and Launch Control began to announce the passage of every 15 seconds or so. . . . The tension was incredible; both Andrew and I could feel it. Michael Rodd said he had his fingers crossed; so did I. Then, a few seconds before launch, the engines sparked into life, blasting yellow, blue, and were lost behind billowing clouds of smoke and steam. When the solid rocket boosters lit up a huge pall of steam billowed across from the stack, and within seconds the three-pronged Shuttle climbed into the sky. Even via the television, the noise was incredible, and as it blasted upwards the whole stack rotated and we could see the Orbiter sitting  there on the big external tank; an incredible bit of coverage. I felt absolutely jubilant. Superb! Ace!! Brilliant!!! I never thought I’d ever see it blasting skywards on top of its yellow plumes of flame. At three-forty-five the BBC gave its first Shuttle update, with the first film from space that showed half-a-dozen tiles missing from both engine pods. Not serious but still a bit worrying. Both crew in good shape. When Mum and Dad got back they were predictably uninterested, although Mum did know quite a bit about it, unlike Dad, who didn’t even know that it was manned!

In the evening we watched a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible which was really good. Jeremy rang at nine and I arranged to go down to his house on Tuesday at eleven. There's been a second night of rioting in Brixton; the area looks as if it’s been blitzed.

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