"Hey, hey, easy kids. Everybody in the car. Boat leaves in two minutes… or perhaps you don't want to see the second largest ball of twine on the face of the earth, which is only four short hours away?" – Clark Griswold
I’m sure every state has that really cool thing that you can do but it just never seems convenient to get around to. I’m sure there are people all over Arizona that haven’t made it to the Grand Canyon yet, and there have to be people in Minnesota who haven’t seen the Giant Ball of Twine yet. Well in Florida that thing is watching the Space Shuttle launch. For 17 years I’ve lived within 2 or 3 hours of Cape Canaveral but never gone there for a launch. That’s not to say we haven’t seen it go up. Anyone who’s lived any amount of time on Florida’s east coast usually has a “Best Launch I ever saw” story” .. Heck I’ve got three or four because on a clear day/night the rocket is visible up and down the coast – but we’d never actually gone and watched it close up. And unlike the Grand Canyon or ball of twine there are only a finite number of launches left – after yesterday 7 in fact.
So when I got up yesterday and was sitting in my jammies savoring my “I have nothing to do today” Sunday and the internet told me NASA have given the all clear for a 7:43 PM launch you could here the record needle screetch – this was it, our perfect chance to go, we had no excuse not to. I woke up the Dr., dressed the kids, packed the car and off we went – 2 hours down the road to Titusville.
Space View Park in Titusville is the closest you can get without paying NASA a fortune ($50 each including kids) to bus you out on the causeway. This park is 12 miles directly across the Intercoastal from the launch pad. It’s actually closer and a better view than if you at NASA’s visitor’s center. It’s free, crowded, and a whole lot of fun! The local space enthusiasts have built a Space Walk of Fame and they create a festival atmosphere there with their vendor tents and information.
We got there about 2:15 – right as mercifully the afternoon sea breeze start to kick up. I don’t know what the temp was but without that wind it would have been damn hot. The girls did a great job of hanging out and playing. The Dr. bought them a set of Apollo 11 toys and it may be safe to say that yesterday a future astronaut was born.
Even the little one put down her Barbies for a little while and got into the fun.
Once she figured out that she was supposed to keep her eyes open those binoculars made a lot more sense to her. After hours and hours of just sitting around finally it was time for the big show!
Little One said “Look Mama they are making a Rainbow!” And at this point I realized I had been so excited that I had forgotten to zoom in with my big honking zoom lens!
I didn’t beat myself up for too long though because at least I remembered so I could get a shot of the solid fuel tank separation!
Because I got an uber education from all the enthusists there yesterday I can now explain to you that those are the smaller white tanks on the sides of the big orange one. They fall off first and are retrieved by ships. The big orange one comes off�
160; next and it just gets burned up. Yeap I’m an expert.
Still one of the most spectacular parts was the sun set reflecting off the smoke/vapor trail. It turned it it a full spectrum of colors and made it glow in the twilight sky. Even after it got dark it was still a visible blue-ish cloud glowing in the night sky.
So here are the lessons we learned:
- Go as early as you possibly can – people start saving spots hours ahead of time we got that 6 hours prior to launch and it was probably 1/3 full.
- Bring Food and drinks! There are vendors but they only show up a couple of hours before the launch.
- Bring Chairs – you’re not going to want to sit on the ground the whole time and chairs seem to reserve more space for you than a blanket.
- Remember to zoom
- Don’t count on using your phone to access information. The cellular infrastructure of little Titusville is blown out of the water with all those people. Think DC on inauguration day.
- Bring lots and lots of sunscreen, there’s shade but not where you want to sit.
- Get ready to be blown away with the beauty of it.