Last week I took a trip with some former co-workers to Merritt Island, Florida, home of the Kennedy Space Center. We visited the park, learned about rockets, watched an IMAX movie, and checked out the Atlantis exhibit.
When we got to the park we learned that that afternoon there was to be a rocket launch as part of the SpaceX Falcon 9 program. My friends work out of one of IBM’s United Kingdom offices, and as such had never seen a rocket launch. I live here in Central Florida, and so… well, actually, I’d never gotten myself to a rocket launch either! So we decided we’d spend the $20 to get a shuttle to a nearby (but not too nearby) viewing area to see the rocket launch.
One of the potential downsides to going to see a rocket launch is that if the launch doesn’t go through as planned for whatever reason, you’re out the money you spent to get to the viewing area. Fortunately for us the launch went mostly according to plan (it was one minute behind schedule – I can deal with that).
It was pretty amazing to see the launch. You could initially see the fire beneath the rocket and the cloud of smoke billowing out from below. Then the rocket slowly ascends into the sky. Then, some time later, you suddenly hear the incredible booming of the rocket launch, which sounds like it’s right there in front of you (though of course it’s not). The rocket climbs further into the sky and reaches its Max Q, which is the point at which the atmospheric pressure on the rocket is highest. Finally it breaks through the atmosphere, tilts in a direction (in this case east), and heads out of sight.
Taking the shuttle back to the Kennedy Space Center took a while – we sat around and had a few drinks and some snacks while we waited for the massive line to diminish. But it was definitely worth taking a trip to the viewing area to see the rocket launch, and I hope to visit the Kennedy Space Center again someday soon. It’s probably gonna happen. I got an annual pass.