I love technology and have always been fascinated by exploration. I hadn’t had a chance to travel in a while, other than visiting family and friends within Canada. SpaceX, a world leader in rocket and space technologies was preparing for a launch down in Cape Canaveral Florida.
With this in mind I went ahead and planned a quick two day, one night trip down to Orlando. I flew in early the day of the launch. Rented a hotel and car near the airport and then made my way over to the Cape Canaveral facilities which was just under one hours drive from Orlando.
The museum and it’s attractions were nice and enjoyable. A one day adult pass will cost you 50$ US. From this base price there are many other “add on” options you can purchase. They had a IMAX theatre showing two different science movies. Shuttle buses to take you to the different facilities and a tour bus to drive you around the large complex.
The tour bus was fun as it allowed you to get a little closer to some of the large launch facilities and installations. It permitted one to get a sense of scale, something which is often lost in pictures. Along the way we also got to see some of the wildlife hanging around in the area, such as alligators.
As someone from a Nordic country it’s weird to see these large reptiles just lounging in the sun by the side of the roads. They have have to build special fences to prevent them from climbing over. Think of a standard chain link fence but on the top there a lip facing outward. This forces any climbing animal to flop back down on the same side it began climbing.
I lounged around the facilities waiting for the SpaceX launch. The contrast of going from a cold and snowy Montreal to a warm and muggy Orlando was enjoyable. It did wonders for my state of mind. It honestly surprised me how just a few days of sun can really break the drudgery of a cold grey winter.
I was sitting just outside the Cape Canaveral gates. They had some picnic tables and I was able to connect to the free wifi they offered visitors. The initial launch time was delayed and pushed back 1 hour (need to check to make sure this is accurate). I settled in fully knowing that in all likely hood the launch would be scrubbed (cancelled). The hour pass and once more and to my surprise the countdown to launch began once again. It was getting darker and darker when the countdown clock finally hit the 10 second mark. I had goosebumps all over and I tried to not get too excited as the clock slowly counted down, 9, 8, 7…3,2,1. On the live stream from the SpaceX website I saw the engines begin to fire as the video froze.
I looked off in the distance and turned my head slightly, hoping to hear the far off rumble of the engines. But there was nothing. No rumble, no streaking rocket engine fire lighting up the sky and most importantly, no loud explosive BOOM! After a few minutes logic set in; if there hadn’t been a launch or any loud explosion then most likely than not the launch had been cancelled at the very last minute.
I grabbed my back pack, crossed the parking lot and got into my car to drive back to the hotel. Once there I managed to use the internet and confirm what had happened. The launch had made it to t+1 second. They engines had begun to fire but at the very last possible moment, the launch computers detected an anomaly and shut the engines off.
To my knowledge this is the only time such a thing has occurred with a SpaceX launch. The trip hadn’t been a complete waste. I had gotten some sun and finally had to live out my boyhood dream of seeing where man had first left the earth to reach for the moon. You can see the failed launch attempt below:
On the bright side the scrubbed launch gave me an excuse to revisit Florida and SpaceX in the future. It’s possible to get even closer to some of the launches, when SpaceX holds a “launch viewing party”. You can sign up to receive these notifications via https://www.kennedyspacecenter.com/ . The tickets normally cost a little extra but they shuttle you to a viewing platform for the launch and it’s certainly worth the expense if you’re a space geek.
Until next time Spacex Orlando.