Florida: Epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch!

Author Pam with Bill Nye “The Science Guy”

Apollo / Saturn V Center

Space Shuttle Runway

Commemorative Launch Brochure

3-2-1 Ignition Take-off

Falcon Heavy Launch into Space

Close-up of SpaceX Rocket

Twin Side Boosters Returning to Earth

SpaceX Tweeted Photo of Tesla Roadster in Space

On Tuesday I watched an epic SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  It was incredible!   I had purchased the “Feel the Heat” package to view liftoff from the closest public viewpoint at the Apollo/Saturn V Center at KSC (only 3.9 miles from launch pad 39A across the Banana River).  We could hear and feel the rumble of takeoff when the engines ignited and everyone wildly cheered!

While we waited in the viewing stands, we were entertained by Bill Nye “The Science Guy”.  Earlier we got the chance to walk on the shuttle runway.  The runway is so long (~3 miles) that you can’t see from one end to the other because of the curvature of the Earth.  Locals call it a “gator tanning facility”, because alligators like to warm up in the sun on the concrete. 

This launch was the historic demonstration flight of the world’s most powerful rocket.  It launched from the same pad used by the Apollo moon missions.  Nestled inside the rocket was Elon Musk’s personal red Tesla roadster, including a dummy driver named Starman in a SpaceX astronaut suit.  Usually demonstration flights include demo payloads like a block of cement as weight, but Elon Musk wanted to make it more interesting.  And he certainly did, based on camera images beamed from the roadster!  My favorite one, which simply looks unreal, is a picture of the car after payload release showing Starman driving the bright red cherry roadster through space with Earth in the background.  Until the batteries give out, the song “Space Oddity” by David Bowie will play on the car’s stereo.  A display panel in the Tesla says “Don’t Panic” – a reference to the sci-fi classic book “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.  Ultimately the Tesla roadster will endlessly loop around the sun for billions of years in an orbit past Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, just as thrilling was to see the twin side boosters simultaneously descend to Earth and land on target at Cape Canaveral.  Their speed was so great they generated double sonic booms.  The third core stage was set to return to the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean offshore.  Unfortunately the core crashed into the water near the platform.  But that was a minor hiccup in an otherwise flawless and amazing spectacle.  WOW!

The space center seems to be booming lately with private enterprise, and it is exciting to see new projects in the works.  Hopefully these launches capture people’s imaginations about future possibilities!  A great article about the launch is at: https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/02/07/spacex-debuts-worlds-most-powerful-rocket-sends-tesla-toward-the-asteroid-belt/

If you would like to visit Kennedy Space Center (highly recommended), learn more at:  https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge for more detail.

Florida: Spectacular Rocket Launch Tonight!

30 Second Exposure of Rocket Trail

30 Second Exposure of Rocket Trail

Raccoon Watching from Tree

Raccoon Watching from Tree

What a spectacular launch tonight!  The payload is a high capacity United States military communications satellite on a Delta 4 rocket.  The first picture is a 30-second exposure of the rocket trail.  The other picture shows a baby raccoon that was watching me from a nearby tree.  Gorgeous view on a warm night here in Florida! 

Florida Skies: Sunrise Clouds and Midnight Rocket

Spectacular Cloud with Rainbow at Sunrise

Spectacular Cloud with Rainbow at Sunrise

Close-up of Rainbow Cloud

Close-up of Rainbow Cloud

Tall Glowing Tropical Cloud

Tall Glowing Tropical Cloud

Rocket Launch After Midnight

Rocket Launch After Midnight

We’ve had the most beautiful sights in the sky both day and night this week.  One morning at sunrise we woke up to tall tropical clouds that seemed to glow from within.  One cloud even had a rainbow in it.  After midnight last night we watched a spectacular rocket blastoff.  A Delta 4 rocket successfully launched two satellites into orbit at 12:52 am.  Our 30 second photograph’s unusual effect is the result of light fog and a full moon.  High humidity made the roar of blastoff over 60 miles away quite loud and long.  Since light travels faster than sound, we saw the liftoff before we heard it.  

Florida: Spectacular Dawn Rocket Launch Today!

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

30 Second Exposure of Atlas Lift-off

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Tadpole-like Expanding Cloud Plume of Mist

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

Leftover Swirly Clouds that Stayed for Quite Some Time Afterwards

We had an absolutely spectacular Atlas 5 rocket launch this morning of a Navy MUOS communications satellite into orbit.  The 20-story tall rocket lifted off at 6:18 am.  The dawn sky brightened as the rocket took off and rose up.  Then we saw something we had never seen before – the white rocket plume brightened into an enormous tadpole-like cloud of mist as the rocket arced east across the Atlantic.  The phenomenon was caused by the perfect combination of sun angle below the horizon and high humidity.  The white cloud of water vapor (not smoke) was formed when the rocket’s hot exhaust gases hit the air.  It was an amazing sight, and one of the top two launches we have ever seen!

Space Station Flyover

Moonrise in Florida

Moonrise in Florida

Long Exposure of Space Station Flyover

Long Exposure of Space Station Flyover

Airplane Trails 1

Airplane Trails 1

Airplane Trails 2

Airplane Trails 2

View of Pacific Cyclone from Space Station (streamed by ISS Above to our TV - click for details)

View of Pacific Cyclone from Space Station (streamed by ISS Above to our TV – click for details)

We had an extra bright flyover of the International Space Station on Friday evening.  It was a gorgeous warm night with a full moon rising.  As I was taking the pictures, I could hear mama owl singing by the pond.  For better photography next time, I’m looking forward to a nice dark night so that I can take a longer exposure.  If you want to see the Space Station, check flyover times at: http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ Remember that the Space Station emits a bright continuous light (the reflection from the solar panels), and airplanes emit flashing lights.

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