JEFFREY HOFFMAN: Before my first launch,
I asked many of the astronauts who had already flown
what's it going to be like.
I mean, they put us in simulators,
and they shake the simulator a little bit,
but they said forget it.
That's nothing like the real thing.
It's hard to prepare yourself.
It's an exciting time the last few minutes before launch,
as the shuttle really comes alive.
And then, all of a sudden, you get this big kick in the pants.
And you look out the window, and there's
the ground falling away.
And everything is shaking and tremendous noise.
Of course, we have helmets, and our visors are down.
And we have earphones.
Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to communicate.
SPEAKER: Roger, roll Denver.
JEFFREY HOFFMAN: People told me that there
was going to be more vibration than I could ever imagine.
And they were right because I couldn't imagine it.
In fact, when-- there's a lot of vibration when
you lift off and reflections from the ground.
45 seconds later, you're going straight up,
and you break the sound barrier.
And that gives you even more vibration
because you get all these shock waves.
And I remember thinking to myself,
no, this can't be normal.
The wings are going to fall off, you know?
Something is wrong.
But, I mean, the structural engineers
knew what they were doing, and the wings did not fall off,
or else I wouldn't be here talking with you.
And, yeah, it's really--
I mean, every rocket has its own characteristics.
With the shuttle, it was those two big solid rocket boosters
that caused all of the vibration.
And they burn for the first two minutes.
And there's a big hole down the middle of it
and lots of turbulence inside.
And that's what's causing all the vibration.
Once they fall off, it's a really smooth ride.
I mean, everybody then talks about it's an electric ride
all the way up into orbit.
So that contrast between the extreme vibration
of riding on top of--
or on the side of a solid rocket booster
and then just the burning of the hydrogen
oxygen engines was really quite extraordinary.
It's quite a ride.
INTERVIEWER: Wow, did anyone ever just
get really scared right before liftoff?
JEFFREY HOFFMAN: You have to have the right personality
to do this.
Now there are some astronauts who will tell you
they don't like launches because of the risk involved.
How do I deal with that?
Well, I mean, we train, and we train.
There's a lot of things that can go wrong during liftoff
and ascent that, if the crew takes
the right corrective actions, we will survive,
and everything will be OK.
And I was fully confident that, if anything like that happened,
we were well trained, and we would do the right thing.
[INAUDIBLE TV ANNOUNCER IN BACKGROUND]
JEFFREY HOFFMAN: There's many things
that can happen during launch over which you
have absolutely no control.
So why worry if I can't do anything about it?
I mean, that's a rational explanation,
and fear is not rational.
And so, yeah, there are some people
who really don't like the risk.
But, for me, I mean, I remember before the first flight riding
out to the launch pad and looking up
at this incredible vehicle that I'm going to get in
and thinking to myself, first of all, this
is not the time to be asking yourself if you really
want to do this, OK?
But then what was really going through my mind
is, ever since I was six years old,
and I saw Flash Gordon take off in his rocket
ship in science fiction, and I always dreamed of doing it.
And I'm about to leave the planet.
It was exciting.
I mean, so my idea was sit back and enjoy the ride.
I'm not a pilot.
So I didn't have to even worry about flying the shuttle.
I could just look out the window and enjoy
this incredible experience, which it certainly was.