First off I have to say, externally I was calm as a cucumber, but internally I was as excited and wild as my son who just ate a party sized bag of skittles on a sugar rush.
The launch of the Orbital ATK OA-9 launch to resupply the ISS (International Space Station).
Here is a link to the mission details and flight page from Orbital ATK's website
Yes this was my first rocket launch. Being originally from South Africa, we would see the space shuttle launches of manned craft on TV but that was pretty much it. I guess because South Africa does not have a space program our attention was not there.
We then had a civilian and entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth go to the ISS as a space tourist, there was a lot of hype around that as he was the first Afronaut (African Astronaut) to go to space. Another South African made headlines in SA by starting a space company, Space X. Again we were proud to be associated with the 'motherland'.
However things quietened down a lot.
Things then changed for me when I was invited to the launch of the Antares rocket for their OA-9 mission.
My excitement levels grew and I planned my trip.
When I flew into Virginia, I was able to go past the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center Air & Space museum in Chantilly VA.
OH WOW!!! What an experience. Walking through the Center took me from the early flight craft and engines, to WWII craft and on to modern day fighter jets.
One aircraft that stood out to me was the B-29 bomber the Enola Gay. The history behind this aircraft is legendary. The British and French turbojet, the Concorde also stirred up memories for me of the news coverage of it's elite status and power. But for me my first breath catching moment was seeing the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird as you walk in. That was a sleek and majestic piece of machinery that makes you stop and stare.
I had to however make sure that I didn't jump up and down to much when you eventually take your eyes off the SR-71 and let them look past that machine and see the sign.... James S. McDonnell Space Hanger. Oooo walk Wade walk.....yes a brisk walk, don't run.
I couldn't believe it, there in front of me was a real life space shuttle, that actually went to space!Well I thought I was in awe at the SR-71, nope this was better. That is a very very large spacecraft and you could see so much character and stories etched into outer body. I could only imagine the stories and experiences and reactions from those who had the chance to sit inside that piece of history.
The next day I found myself in Chincoteague VA. A cute little island community and home to Wallops Island and MARS (Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport). Orbital ATK were amazing hosts!
I learnt of the mission goals of supplying the ISS with essentials and taking science experiments into space. Along with details on the rocket itself and how it was a 2 stage rocket. The team at Orbital ATK also had some fun traditions and things they do, like going to the local ice cream store and ordering the flavor labeled 'Rocket Fuel'. Boy that had a bite to it, but yummy.
As part of the media group we were able to get super close to the rocket prior to launch with some of the members setting up remote cameras and taking photos of the Antares rocket super close. That was both exciting, entertaining, informational and memorable.
The launch was slipped for a day but not a problem because the following day at 04h44 the Antares rocket launched and into space it went.
Watching that rocket was literally breath taking. Even thinking of it and talking to people about it gets me all excited again. When you initially see the engines ignite and the burst of light brighten the sky almost to day light was amazing, but wait...you then start to hear a noise, a rumble, then you feel the vibrations coming through the ground. They hit your feet and travel up your body, just as the sound fills your ears hearing the crackling of burning rocket fuel and over takes your senses, added to the already visual stimulus you are experiencing. Three of the five senses are in overload. Sight, Hearing, Touch. That was absolutely breath taking and etched into my memory forever.
A successful launch was even more amazing by being able to see the ignition of the stage 2 engine, which apparently is not often seen.
To the team at Orbital ATK and the MARS team for a successful launch thank you. Especially for the invite to my 1st rocket launch and the memories made.
The photographs attached were taken by & ownership thereof of myself and form part of the whole experience.