When we woke on Thursday, there was no news of the launch being cancelled, so we killed some time at the massive Ron Jon Surf Shop out of sheer curiosity. Cool place and not as expensive as expected, so we picked up a couple of things for tourist posterity. Heading back over to the space centre, we took the time to go through the Gateway Building. So glad we did! Models of all the different rockets and the ones that will be used in the Artemis mission to return to the moon. We did 2 of the “rides” with 4-D experiences of missions to Mars and Celestial Wonders. It was all more than cool.
Once again, we rode the bus over to the Apollo Centre, which was also the location of the launch viewing area. We spent some more time exploring things we missed the day before, including “The Vault” where there is memorabilia from the various missions, including the Apollo 14 capsule. While waiting for one of the ride experiences, I was intrigued by the "CHILD SWAP" door. LOL I thought it sounded like a better threat than no presents from Santa - "You damn well behave yourself or I'll swap you faster than you can say Star Wars! There's the door!"
Picking up our “launch” wristbands so we wouldn’t get kicked out with the last bus back to the main site, all that remained was to kill time until the launch. We found ourselves some uncomfortable seats in a set of bleachers and fell into conversation with Chuck and Carla Byers from Idaho. Chuck has spent a lifetime restoring cars and had some interesting stories. They have travelled by RV and otherwise for many years and have much to tell. While waiting, we heard from someone else that in the next viewing area, there was a big screen where there would be a commentary about the launch so we could hear what was happening and when, so we changed locations. Good thing we did, as seats very quickly filled up and we had a great viewing spot.
The Falcon 9 was being launched to deploy 40 satellites into space with a goal of providing web connectivity to areas where there is none.
Despite being a relatively short experience, the launch was awe-inspiring. It was much more dramatic than I expected it to be from the distance we were at. The explosion of gases that launches the rocket was brilliant and impressive, as was the earth-shaking rumble and roar as it left the ground. We watched and watched as it sped towards the earth’s atmosphere and even saw the first stage separate and plummet back to earth. This section falls to the ocean and is recovered to be used again. Eventually, we heard and felt the sonic boom from its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. WOW! JUST WOW!
The rest of the evening was the anti-climactic rush to exit the property and catch the buses back to the parking area. Clearly this was not their first rodeo, as the Space Center staff evacuated several hundred people and the buses ferried groups of people back and forth to the parking lot with remarkable speed. Then there was the 2.5 hour drive back to Tampa, reliving the launch in our minds all the way.
LAUNCH VIDEO 1: youtu.be/RY_FJH4up-A
LAUNCH VIDEO 2: youtu.be/3gqVxodfJn8