Spoiler alert: It was freaking awesome, and hopefully, one day, I will be in a mission control room…
So, as space lovers like myself are well aware, the Crew-1 mission launched on Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Since I live in Daytona now, I was lucky enough to be able to see it from ~10-11 miles away. And let me just say- that was awesome.
Since the Crew-1 was a crewed mission, a lot of people wanted to go. Thankfully, Embry-Riddle is only an hour or so away from Cape Canaveral, and everyone knows it. Because of the proximity, there’s a group chat on Snapchat full of people that like attending rocket launches. A lot of people- and I mean a lot– of people decided to go to this launch, whether they are in the group chat or not. Here’s what my snap map looked like nearly two hours before the launch:
Yeah, a lot of people went down. Some people made it a full day endeavor, hanging out at Cape Canaveral/Titusville/the Kennedy Space Center. If I had the time, money, and a car of my own, I definitely would have. Embry-Riddle has ZipCars, so people with ZipCar accounts can drive the ZipCars. That’s how my friends and I got a ride down there.
My friends and I settled on a bridge nearby to watch the launch. The bridge was pulled up, and the lights were pretty bright, so we decided to go exploring. We found a path that led to a birdwatching spot and realized that the launch pad was right in front of us. (We were facing south, north of the Cape.) Once we realized that, we instantly took a seat on the birdwatching benches.
There was no service for most of us, but luckily, one of our friends had 5G service. He streamed the launch and played it through one of our other friend’s Bluetooth speaker, but since he had limited cellular data, turned it off 30 seconds before launch. (We only had it on to ensure that the launch didn’t scrub.) While the stream was playing, we talked about the launch, including the rocket’s trajectory. Most of us were aerospace engineering majors on the astronautics track. Then, the launch pad lit up right in front of us, and we all started cheering.
It was crazy. It was as if the night had turned into day for a split second, and then we saw a tiny burst of light streaking up into the sky:
We all had our cameras and filmed the little rocket shooting up into the sky. A few moments after the rocket launched, we heard the loud rocket rumble, and we were so close that we could feel it in the ground. I totally understand why some people cry during rocket launches- it was amazing to watch. This is how far people have come- we’re sending each other into space. This is the product of literal rocket science, something that I’m lucky enough to learn at Riddle. I couldn’t stop thinking about it- one day I could do something like that with my degree.
Since the rocket trajectory was going northeast, it curved to the left in the sky. We were able to see everything: we saw the first stage booster separate from the rocket, and then we watched the second stage booster ignite. After that, we watched the rocket get smaller and smaller until it disappeared into the sky.
We waited around in case we could see the first stage booster coming back down to land on the drone ship, but unfortunately, we didn’t see it. After that, we headed right back to Embry-Riddle. The roads back were quite busy, since people had a lot of different spots to watch from. One of my friends took this from a beach:
This is the second rocket launch I’ve seen; the first one was the Starlink launch in August. I’ve noticed that Crew-1, however, had a lot more attendees to it. It was absolutely amazing to watch, and I’m really glad I got to go. Even those who didn’t make the drive down to Cape Canaveral were able to see the launch from Riddle’s campus, which is another thing that I love about going to Riddle. On Friday, I had a test, so I couldn’t drive down with the rocket-watching group chat to watch the Atlas V launch close up. However, I could easily see it from Riddle’s campus!