The Space Shuttle was arguably one of the most beautiful space vehicles ever flown. While on the launch pad, its tall fuel tank with its ogive-shaped dome, flanked by twin solid rocket boosters, looked like a cathedral pointed toward the heavens. Affixed to the side of the fuel tank was the Orbiter, itself a graceful testament to beautiful engineering form serving multiple functions.
I have attempted to capture the visual experience of witnessing a Space Shuttle launch in person. There is a uniquely awe-inspiring quality to seeing such a beautiful combination of graceful lines coupled with raw power. The title of this artwork refers to the twin solid rocket boosters which provided 83 percent of the total 6.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.
The most surprising and extraordinary aspect, for me, was the intense brightness of the solid boosters' flaming exhaust. It was so strikingly bright that it appeared as though a hole was cut out of the sky revealing the brilliant pure white radiance of whatever is beyond the edge of our universe.
The exhaust plume exited the booster nozzles like a blow torch flame, illuminating itself from within for a distance of two-and-a-half times the length of the Shuttle stack. The plume color transitioned from blazing white to yellow and then to orange before abruptly changing to a billowy cloudlike column of white. The column resembled cumulous clouds and reflected the colors of the surrounding sky in intricate detail.
I have embellished this piece with depictions of the shock waves that develop as the Shuttle exceeds supersonic speeds. The shock waves were not usually visible to the naked eye, but when conditions were right condensation clouds would form along the pressure waves and envelop the speeding Shuttle.