After two failed attempts at seeing a rocket launch out on the coast, including the awesome Orion launch, I finally saw one up close. This was an Atlas V with a little satellite, but it was still pretty impressive. I brought along Diana and Simon as well. Simon seemed pretty impressed, going on about how cool it was.
I've gushed about what a space nerd I was growing up, in love with the Space Shuttle program, and with the relative frequency of rocket launches, it seemed ridiculous that I had not seen one after living in Central Florida for more than a year. I mean, I've seen them from home in West Orange County, but that's not the same as seeing the fireball, hearing the sound and feeling it in your chest. I'm particularly bummed that I missed the Orion launch, because that was a seriously big-ass rocket pushing heavy stuff into space, and it was easily visible from my "secret" viewing spot. It was silly for me not to go back for the second attempt.
In this case, it was worth going and bringing Simon, even on a school night, because the launch window was pretty short, about 45 minutes, and I knew he'd sleep in the car anyway. There were about 25 minutes of delays, but at 8:04, they lit that candle.
There were two big surprises for me. Being a night launch, I couldn't believe how the initial burst of flame lit up everything on the ground along the horizon. It isn't quite daylight, but it sure is bright. The light levels do fall off pretty quickly as it climbs, but it's so awesome.
The other big surprise is the sound. I knew we were a few miles from the launch pad, but it's crazy how long it took to get to us. When it did, it was unlike anything I've ever heard. You can feel it in your chest and under your feet. That's really what I was there for, and it was awesome.
It was almost entirely clear, so we could see the rocket pretty much the entire way up. Being that close, you also appreciate how far down range it goes, over the ocean. Seeing these launches from points directly west, it's as if it's going straight up.
I look forward to seeing more of these. It's one of the unexpected perks of living here.