Local section members Bob Greene and Jolie Elder traveled down to Florida’s space coast for the 12:45 AM Monday 18 July SpaceX launch of a Falcon 9. This was mission CRS-9 and you can find the press kit here on the SpaceX website. You can learn more by visiting NASA’s Space Station blog here.

Jolie & Bob at SpaceX launchFrom our vantage point we could see the bright orange “star” rise into the sky and then split into two “stars.” We could also see the booster back lighting the low clouds during its descent burn. We saw the booster’s final burn as it set down to be reused on another mission. Observers applauded. And then after about a minute, we heard the sonic boom! The whole experience took about 10 minutes.

Beforehand, we parked along US Route 1, across the Indian River from the Vehicle Assembly Building. I am struck by what an American experience this is. There are very few places in the world where you can just pull off the road and watch a rocket launch. The observers were a spontaneous, unorganized (in the sense of non-ticketed) gathering of the random public. Some people were there with their children. Some had cameras on tripods. Photography was tricky because of the night launch. An ice cream truck even drove by twice while we were waiting. So there we were — a beautiful summer evening with a nice breeze, a lovely almost-full moon, ice cream, and a perfect rocket launch and landing. It rarely gets better than that, even in Paris.

If you are an American and you have never attended a rocket launch, why not add one to your “to do” list?