A little bit of History.
If any of you have ever made your own bucket list, you will know what I mean by saying that this one was on mine. That being the live witnessing of a rocket launch. One time we were in central Florida a few years ago, visiting Melinda’s dad, and we had seen a rocket head into the sky. At that time we were about 60 miles away. Since then, seeing a rocket launch in person has been on my bucket list.
It’s amazing how far away these can be seen. There was a lady from Tampa sitting next to me, and she said they have seen launches from their home on the west coast of Florida.
Awesome. What can I say. My vantage point was in the town of Titusville, which is about 12 miles across the Indian River waterway from the Space Center. As you can see from the pictures, we – me and the other several hundred people at that site – had a pretty good view of the launch site. One must realize, of course, that we were still 12 miles away.
About a week ago, I had made a trip over to the coast to explore viewing sites. And I’m glad I did, as I had a pretty good idea of where I was headed. Today, I left my campsite a little after 7:00 a.m., and arrived at Kennedy Point Park around 8:30 a.m. Even at that time, the parking lot was filling up, and the entire railing area shown on the photo was occupied by folks. Fortunately, since I was by myself, I was able to find a hole for me and my chair at the railing. By the time of the launch, I would guess there were at least 1,000 people at this site alone.
As luck would have it, I was parked next to some folks from Massachusetts who arrived in their motorhome. They put their awning out, and we were able to sit in some shade when needed. Otherwise, most of the people at the railing stayed out there from early morning through the launch. And there were folks from all over the place. One guy a couple places down had driven all the way from New Mexico, just for this. And I did see one other vehicle in the parking lot with Oregon plates.
Yes, it’s a long way to go for an event that takes about a minute, especially when waiting for several hours. But I guess this is one of those events that doesn’t come around all that often, and in this case, was the last of its’ kind. There are a couple other launches, but not of the Discovery.
And you only get one chance at pictures. When taking my pictures, I was attempting to take both a movie with the camera, while taking snapshots at the same time. This created a bit of a challenge, but I think I got a few good ones. When I took the snapshots, there was a second or two delay of returning to the video, so, due to this being a moving target, there were a couple times (probably more than a couple) when I lost the shuttle and had to find it again. Also, because the target was over 12 miles away, it was a bit tough to zoom in on it with accuracy.
All in all, it was a great experience, and one that I’m glad I had a chance to participate in.
Now, the drive back was a different experience altogether. Even after waiting an hour and a half to leave my parking lot, it still was bumper to bumper, stop and go, for about 40 miles. Much of the traffic pealed off at the Orlando airport exit, and was much better after that. And fortunately the toll booths were closed for this rush. At one point, not too far from the Orlando airport, there was a TV station van doing a story – obviously on the traffic, as they were sitting along an on-ramp with their 30 foot antennae up in the air. And this was 3 ½ to 4 hours after the launch.
Some folks across the street from me at the campsite were also going to the launch, and they got home a little after I did. Haven’t talked to them yet.