Today I watched history being made! I watched a rocket take off from Cape Canaveral, and then LAND again where it was supposed to. Humanity has crossed a technological threshold!!
My whole time I was in Florida I kept MEANING to go to Cape Canaveral, but just was never able to drag my ass out there, for a host of reasons, including inertia. The first liftoff I saw with my own eyes was on this trip, and it was quite by accident; I was at Disney’s Epcot, and happened to look in the right direction at the right moment and saw it. It was amazing. But I wanted to see one up close (well, as close as legally possible without paying an arm and a leg for the privilege). Finally, I saw on one of the web pages that track this stuff that there was going to be a liftoff (launch) tonight.
I drove out to the east coast of Florida to see the 8:30pm blast off… hopeful that it would happen. The last takeoff I intended to go to got scraped because of bad weather, and we did initially have a forecast for storms for tonight as well, but happily the forcast has changed and moved those off till tomorrow.
Per the suggestion of one of my best and oldest friends (the guy whose Winter Garden house I lived in from June through August — it is like a 15 min. drive from his place to the back gate of Disney) I left early (so that I could drive almost an extra hour south of NASA) in order to get a GOOD hot dog for dinner from what was advertised as the Florida branch of “Mustard’s Last Stand” ( a Chicago institution for the Northwestern University crowd) before heading north again to see the lift off. My friend knew it was there but had not yet had the chance to try it. Unhappily it turned out to be a totally bogus waste of time. The original Mustard’s is located right next to my alma mater’s football stadium, and its dogs are regularly listed as the best in the whole Chicago area — hence my willingness to drive an hour out of my way while in Florida. The Evanston/Chicago one has been around since 1969, this Florida rip off (who nabbed the url first) has only been around since 1987 (and how scummy is that? First they copy the name — adding Chicago style eatery so as not to infringe, and then they nabbed the url, Seriously!). There was spotty rain while I got my dog, and I hoped they wouldn’t scrap the liftoff again.
Note: I was EXCEEDINGLY unhappy with my Cheese dog, and it was totally NOT worth the extra drive (which almost had me late for the launch) … Firstly, they used the cheaper Velveeta as the cheese (BLECH) instead of using high quality Merkts cheese like they should have (even I know for a fact that it IS sold in local Florida stores, so no excuse there). Also secondly, while the hot dogs were Vienna beef, they were those really skinny small ones and NOT the big meaty ones any Chicagoan would have expected, so it was mostly bun… MAJOR rip off.
Driving back up I stopped at a local gas station and asked where I should go to watch the liftoff. The guy working the counter and the female customer (who looked to be about 30, but who was CLEARLY a meth addict) both suggested jetty park as the best free location; but, by the time I got down here it was kind of obvious from the backed up cars that parking near there would be an issue. So, I grabbed the first parking space near that I could find (way at the other end, by the Milliken’s Reef restaurant) and ended up sitting next to two older gentlemen on a bench. There were a LOT of people here, so I could guess how crowded the preferred location was.
RIGHT behind where I was standing there was this bizarre, modernistic looking building (built to kind of look like a rocket), which turned out to be named Exploration Tower… they had turned off all the lights in it, right before the lift off, and then they came back on afterwards… and I thought to myself “that would have been a great place to view the take off….” When I got home I was looking at some of these images on line and found the one from Reuters at the top of this blog, which I’m willing to bet money was taken from that building.
Granted, my recording isn’t very good… I did it off of my iphone 4s, which is already on its last legs (I wanted a new one but the iphones they released are SO much bigger that they don’t suit my small hands, am waiting for them to release a replacement for the 5s before I buy one). However, this is why G-d made Youtube.
That said, the fact is no recording really does justice to the experience. What sounds like wind hitting the microphone was this massive roaring noise that seemed to be everywhere all at once — that you just have to experience. And there was the camaraderie of the crowds, the excitement in the air, etc…. you just can’t feel that in the videos, the roaring and cheering of the crowds, so loud that you could even hear the folks across the bay cheering when the SpaceX stuck the landing…
It was amazing!
And I was THERE!!!! …. The whole drive home I was feeling “l saw something historic today” and then, the two hours of driving and the overwhelming emotional excitement of the launch of the space X, had worn me out completely by the time I got home.