When I think of Melbourne, I think of Australia. When I think of Australia, I think of beaches. Well, this is not Australia, but it is beach. Florida beaches to be specific.
And despite what you might see on the news, and I’m not slamming the media, but in Florida you can pick and choose which beaches to go to. Melbourne beaches are not like Jacksonville or Daytona or Cocoa. Simply put, if you want to stay away from the crowds, you can.
This is not only about social distancing, this is about social responsibility. And we chose to be responsible with our own private launch party at this beach, well away from crowds, but within a fun range to experience this historic space launch.
A couple hours before launch time, about 20 miles south of The Kennedy Space Center…
When we set out for Melbourne, there was a 40% chance of a 4:33pm launch. Day of launch it was a 60% GO. Where we were, right around 1pm, there was a localized storm cell with high winds, lightning, and a tornado warning. We shacked up in our launch pad and waited it out. This is Florida, in 15 minutes it’ll be clear and sunny.
So, by about 4.15pm the mission meteorologist decided, because of obvious weather circumstances, to scrub the mission. You see, nowadays with instruments so automated, the ” window ” for launch is not measured in minutes but by seconds. This crew was to rendezvous with the ISS at a precise orbital time. Rescue crews were staged, should there be a problem, as far away as Ireland. So, theoretically there is no “window”. It’s GO or NO~GO.
This is a launch of the same SpaceX Saturn 9 rocket from April, 2016. Only difference is that today, two NASA trained astronauts are sitting atop that flame on their way into space. First time in about ten years that Americans are sent to space from American soil.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be fascinated by a rocket launch. Me, I was a lowly aeronautics major studying the same four basic principles: gravity, lift, thrust, drag. A student captivated by the science behind transporting large objects into the air. Today was a first hand lesson in both rocket science and aeronautics.
I must say, watching a rocket launch is way better in person. The initial blasts of steam (the pad is flooded with water to keep it cool and flames down), the orange fiery carrot-like flame thrusting the pencil-thin rocket into the sky. It wasn’t until several seconds later that we could hear AND feel that rocket ascend into the atmosphere. The salty bay water breezing through our noses to the back of our tongue. A true testament to every sense.
It was a clear day. A day where chances of scrubbing the launch was next to zero. A day we could all see rocket science in action. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was set to launch. The payload is an expandable “living room” destined for the International Space Station (ISS).
But the most interesting aspect of this launch is that SpaceX is trying to consistently land the rocket back on a barge in the bay. And they successfully stuck the landing. This is important because now they can recycle that multi-million dollar rocket and launch it again in a matter of weeks. A cost effective way to support the space program without the federal government (NASA).
I remember the Challenger disaster. I was in college and yet still had hope for space, and space for hope. As a small speck in the blue sky of Earth’s atmosphere, and a smaller speck in the vast universe, a launch with new space start-ups like SpaceX, is this little speck’s dream come true.
The launch was rescheduled for Saturday at 3:22pm. As I write this, there is a 50-50 chance for timely lift-off. So today, after lunch, we will have our own launch party in the comfort of our own living room. Officials and news outlets are encouraging this and making TV viewing rather spectacular. With interactive camera angle options we’ll be able to select which perspective we want to watch. I’ll be tuning in, from my imaginary perspective, on the couch.
Congratulations launch team! Thanks Dragon Spaceship crew!!