It was a very lucky coincidence that we had planned to visit the Kennedy Space Centre on the same day as the Artemis 1 was scheduled (for the 3rd time) to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida. While planning our road trip to swim with manatees, we thought that it could be a cool thing to drive across Florida from the west coast to the east coast and visit the home of so many epic space adventures. More on the visit to Kennedy Space Centre later but for now, just a short story about something very awesome.
Artemis I is the first in a series of increasingly complex missions that will enable human exploration to the Moon and Mars. Artemis 1 marks the return of NASAs lunar exploration as established by the Apollo program, and this was the first time in 50 years that NASA had a mission to the moon. It marks the first step to return of humans to the moon’s surface, although Artemis 1 is an unmanned mission, by 2025 it will be manned by men and women going to the lunar surface and eventually beyond.
As luck would have it, the launch had already been postponed due to technical difficulties, and from the week before our visit by an unseasonably late hurricane. We had booked a room at a hotel close by Cocoa Beach pier and Cocoa Beach from the 15th to the 16th of November, and again we were lucky as this was a great spot to see the rocket take off from Cape Canaveral just up the road.
We watched the live NASA broadcast in bed at our hotel room, where we could follow the tanking of fuel and the multitude of benchmarks that had to be reached before the launch sequence was started. There was an announced delay already before the launch window opened at 01:04AM, there was only a 2-hour window to launch, and after a delay of about half an hour the launch clock was set to a 10-minute countdown to lift off. All systems were GO! We got giddy with excitement and ran down to the beach where thousands of people had gathered for the spectacle. We stood in eerie silence, as the live broadcasts from thousands of Iphones counted down, 3-2-1 WE HAVE LIFTOFF!
It was like the sun suddenly lit up the pitch-black horizon, in the beginning we were a bit confused, since we were some distance away from the launch site, we could not hear any sound, just see the horizon light up. Suddenly it was almost like daylight, and we saw a big ball of light start to slowly climb into the sky. It was awesome! Thousands of people stood at the beach hollering and yelling at the rocket as it gained momentum and sped up into the abyss of space. The support rockets fell off and it seemed to aim for the moon that was also up, showing the way for the rocket. When the sound wave hit us, the air shook with the reverberations of millions of pounds of thrust being ignited at once. Goosebumps all over!
Eventually the flame of the rocket disappeared and blended into the stars, the launch was a success, and yet again man is going to the moon to explore. What an awesome sight! Probably a once in a lifetime experience for the two of us.