Yesterday, Tuesday, February 6th, 2018, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon Heavy orbital rocket booster quite literally out of this world. This is the story of how I went from no plans at all to standing at NASA watching a rocket take off in under 24 hours.
I'd been talking with my buddy Evan about the launch and how historic it would be to see in person. After all, no one knew for sure what would happen - would it launch and make history, or would it explode?
Monday I kept peeking at airline tickets and the prices kept dropping as the flight times got closer and closer. At 4:11 we pulled the trigger and bought round-trip tickets for $150.
Fast forward twelve hours later and we were on our way to NASA.
By the time we arrived in Titusville, traffic was already backed up and droves of people were heading toward the launch side, pad 39A. We eventually parked in town and headed out on foot for improved mobility.
There was no shortage of camera gear and interesting people. The most impressive setup I saw belonged to a man named Antwon who had modified a telescope and attached his camera to it.
The launch time was delayed several times from 1:30 to 2:20, then to 3:05, and finally 3:45. Around 3:15 we saw helicopters circling the area which was a good sign.
Our patience paid off at 3:45 when we saw the main engines ignite and a cloud of smoke begin to billow up from the horizon. The Falcon Heavy rose slowly at first, building speed steadily as it rose - it takes time to get 3,000,000+ pounds moving. As the rocket climbed higher we watched the supersonic shockwaves ripple around the nosecone.
The excitement watching as a collective crowd was thrilling. This feeling is mild though compared to the euphoria you can hear from the SpaceX team control center video.
The acoustics that you feel in person is one of the biggest factors which makes it hard to fully appreciate the launch from a normal video. At first, you see the rocket take off, but you hear silence. Then, as the sound waves finally reach you a tremendous roar builds until it fills the air. I noticed that the base was so strong in my own videos that they actually shook the camera optics, you can see the footage shaking.
Destin from Smarter Every Day put together a fantastic video which does a good job at emulating the feeling of being there in person.
The part of this entire launch that just makes me smile is the payload and the landing. SpaceX launched a Tesla Roadster complete with a driver named StarMan. As far as the landing goes, just the idea of bringing a rocket back to earth on it's own is staggering. SpaceX managed to do it with two boosters, at the same time. Photos via SpaceX.
It's hard to appreciate the scale and achievement of these landings. Seeing this photos from Reddit put things in perspective for me. Look how tiny the humans are next to the booster legs.
When all was said and done, we were left with traffic. We got a ride back to town from a new friend, Ben. We sat in the same spot talking until the sun actually set before we moved.
If you are left wondering "what would it have looked like if it did explode" this SpaceX compilation will hit the spot for you.