SpaceX Falcon Heavy –
After the last scrubbed attempt of an Atlas rocket launch, I really want to see a live launch. They say things work out for a reason. If I had seen my original launch, I wouldn’t have made the trip back for the inaugural launch of of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy. The Falcon Heavy is a concept from the visionary Elon Musk. I am a bit of an admirer of Musk; I am envious of his ability to not only think outside of the box, but to also see those thoughts through to fruition.
The Falcon Heavy is the worlds most powerful rocket, capable of delivering large payloads to the International Space Station, and maybe even Mars. Todays payload is Elons’ Tesla Roadster.
Houston, not again!
Todays launch is scheduled for 1:30pm. My assigned time is to arrive 5 hours pre launch. After traversing the lines for admission and the bus, I finally nestle in at viewing area with about 2 hours to until launch time. Almost immediately, a one hour delay is announced.
A small stage is setup and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, is giving his take on the days events. I find him entertaining and he does provide a needed diversion from the wait. I, however, find myself watching the many birds soar, swoop and dive about.
Due to higher than expected winds aloft, yet another indefinite delay is announced. The irony of that amuses me. We spend millions of dollars, exert tremendous brain power only to succumb to a little wind. The birds don’t seem to have any problem with it.
The Final Countdown
Finally the count down clock starts ticking again with a launch scheduled for 3:45. For reasons beyond my comprehension 3:45 is a do or die for todays launch. Another delay will force this launch to be scrubbed. Inside of 1/2 hour to go, the announcer starts reading a disclaimer that we are viewing with assumed risk of flying debris, toxins and other nasty stuff. I don’t see anyone who doesn’t like their odds of survival leaving.
The announcement I do take to heart is to not watch the launch through a view finder of a camera or phone. We are encouraged to experience the launch and worry about downloading pictures later.
Once the steam starts rolling, I couldn’t help but snap a photo or two. It’s a bit surreal that the rocket starts lifting before I even hear a sound. Once the sound arrives to my vantage point 4 miles away, I notice I’m glued to my view finder and mesmerized at whats unfolding before me.
I sit the camera down to feel the pressure pounding on my chest and the trembling below my feet. The rocket seems to just hang in air and moves slowly. I worry that the momentum will just stop and the rocket will fall back to the ground.
To infinity… and beyond!
The Falcon continues pulling against the forces of gravity and trying to break free. It inches through the sky and through the only cloud in the sky. Within a span of 2 minutes its gone. The announcer and videos on the jumbotron show the 2 booster rockets separate successfully, and the crowd erupts with the news.
The crowd settles, for a few minutes when 2 red orbs coming dropping out of the sky towards us. Unique to SpaceX is the reuse of its booster rockets. They return to Kennedy landing perfectly in unison on landing pads nearby. The crowd again erupts into a chorus of cheers. Upon which are two loud booms! Startling, but a perfectly normal sonic boom that took its time to reach us.
Something about that moment just yanks a few tears from my eyes. I really don’t know why. It is an emotional experience I’m not expecting. I try to figure out where this emotion came from. There was immense anticipation, there was worry, there was awe, there was sensory arousal, there was elation then finally relieve. I surmise it’s just too many emotions at once, and something had to give. And hope no one notice. But I did notice I wasn’t the only one.
I have seen televised rocket launches my entire life and never consider seeing a live launch a bucket list kind of thing. That’s unfortunate, as I would have been really missing out if I didn’t make the effort to see this one.
The announcer was right: My view finder doesn’t compare to the footage available on line. But the online footage doesn’t do the live viewing justice.