The last launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery took place a few days ago with the launch of STS-133. There have been a lot of photos and videos of the launch floating around the ‘net, and some of the most impressive were taken by Robonaut-1, a high-altitude balloon launched by Quest for Stars.
The photo in this post is from their photostream on Flickr and shows the exhaust trail left by Discovery as seen from an altitude of 22.8 km (about 74,800′). At that altitude you can see the curvature of the Earth against the darkness of space and the edge of the atmosphere where the blue fades to black.
The second photo is similar, but you can see the end of the exhaust trail where Discovery is punching through the atmosphere into space.
Having chased a couple of high-altitude balloons myself, I could related to the frustration of the searchers when the balloon’s payload returned to Earth and they had to wait until morning to retrieve it.
So, congratulations to the Quest for Stars group on their balloon launch and managing to capture a shuttle launch from the edge of space!