It took only 9 minutes for the Space Shuttle Endeavour to settle into orbit after blasting off on time this morning at 8:56 a.m. While the views from land were certainly gasp-worthy, the scene from a jetliner at cruising altitude was extra cool for its rarity. YouTube user spiitfir322 captured the video below through a window while flying JetBlue from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to New York. Says the amateur videographer: "Watch till the end when the shuttle ignites the other burners."
This is Endeavour's final flight before it is retired, and the second-to-last shuttle flight in the 30-year-old shuttle program. Here are some of the things Endeavor is carrying on this historic mission:
• Shuttle captain Mark Kelly, husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who watched the launch from Kennedy Space Center (and reportedly exclaimed, “Good stuff.”)
• Live baby squid, representing the first time cephalopods have been rocketed into space. The squid are being used in an experiment to study the effects of zero gravity on beneficial bacteria.
• Five types of crazy microbes – including Poison Lover, Conan the Bacterium and Old Salty – with superhero powers like withstanding absolute-zero temperatures and blasts of radiation up to 15,000 GY (1,500 times the lethal dose for humans). The organisms will help prove, or disprove, the “transpermia” theory holding that life on earth began with microbes carried in on meteorites.
• A $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to help crack the little ol’ mystery of where the universe came from.
There are 16 days left in Endeavour's mission. You can track all the stages of its landing process using Google Earth.