Another in the series of posts of things that would have been blog posts if I'd had a blog during the months the blog was dark.
The following was emailed to friends and family August 3, 2004 06:59:16 UTC.
So I woke up about 06:05 UTC and realized that I was awake in time for the scheduled 06:15:56 UTC launch of the Messenger spacecraft to Mercury. I wasn't sure if I would be able to see anything at all from home, so I didn't wake up Brandy or Amy. But I put on NASA TV... well, OK, it was already on, I'd put it on several hours earlier before I went to sleep... I had hoped to stay awake for it, but had fallen asleep. I hadn't set an alarm or anything, but woke up just in the nick of time. NASA TV was annoying me because they were covering something happening on the space station instead... docking with a supply ship or some such... but they did mention that Messenger was a go and should be launching in just under 5 minutes.
So a minute before time I went outside and looked North in the general direction of Cape Canaveral, not really expecting to see much. I watched on my atomic set clock as the designated time ticked by. I didn't see much. It was a little cloudy. So, "Oh well" I thought and turned around to go back in... and saw a big fireball in the sky!
As it turned out I was muddled in my having just woken up 5 minutes ago state, and had been looking east, not north. But to the North I could see it very clearly. It had just cleared the trees obscuring my view in that direction. It was bright. It was flaming. There were sparks coming off the back. It was headed straight up for a bit, then turned to the east and headed away. I watched it as it got further away and got dimmer and the angle got more horizontal seeming.
Then the sound hit. A really loud sub-woofer-style bone rattling rumble. And then the sound continued. And continued. The spacecraft was no longer visible. I headed inside for a second. A minute later I came back out. The rumble was still going, and actually even louder. The rumble lasted a good five minutes before you couldn't hear it any longer. And you could FEEL it for a little while even past then.
I was very excited. This was my first actual rocket launch! And I am close enough to the cape to see it from my front yard!!! And not only to see it, but to FEEL IT. I know this is old hat to Ivan, who has seen a few of these, and maybe to any of the rest of you if you have. But I thought it was very cool. I immediately regretted not having woken up Brandy or Amy. But with the clouds and everything, and not knowing exactly how much would be visible or not from the house, I didn't know if it would be worth it. Now I know. It is very worth it! (Well, at least until it gets boring after a few times I guess.)
This was a Delta 2 rocket carrying the Messenger spacecraft. According to NASA's site, the next scheduled launch from here is an Atlas 2AS on August 31st with a spy satellite for the NRO. Then the next one is a test launch of a Delta 4 in September. I'll definitely have to check those out! Uh, if I can remember.
Anyway, I'm sorry I didn't wake up Brandy and Amy for it, but as excited as I was, didn't see much point in waking them up AFTER it was over, so I decided to email all of you instead. It was cool. I like rockets! :-)