Thursday, October 15, 2015

Playing Hooky

Last week, we had the opportunity to go down to Vandenberg Air Force Base to watch an Atlas 5 launch.  It was a school day, but we were all allowed to sign up, so we let Nim skip school. Educational, right?  Fortunately, the secretary in the school office who I talked to ahead of time agreed.

The launch was set for early Thursday morning, so we drove down to Solvang Wednesday night.  Upon arrival, we got instructions for the next morning:  "Be at the bus at 2:30am."  Ouch.  They needed to get us all through security and over to the site in time.

After boarding the bus, we drove towards the base, and then stopped and waited for our security check.  Zzzzzz for some, poking at devices with glowing screens for others.

One of Chad's coworkers brought his two teenaged daughters (slightly older than Nim).  I was amused to see that one of them slept while the other compulsively posted things to instagram. (The two most common states of the local teenager, for those of you who don't currently have one.)

After the security process was complete and everyone had been issued their pass stamped with the official Space Command stamp, the bus then took off with a police escort through Lompoc and over to our viewing site.  It is hard to tell from the picture below, but we got the VIP treatment with a cop car with lights flashing to follow over to the site.

Needless to say, it was still dark when we got there -- but the launch pad was well-lit and easy to see.

The pictures really don't do it justice -- things seemed more present (and more focussed!) in real life.

We ate our picnic breakfast (muffins and fancy Blue Bottle cold brew), and waited about 10 minutes for the launch, which happened pretty much right on schedule.  Again, the pictures don't do it justice, both in terms of the sheer amount of light the burning fuel put out, and also in terms of the sheer volume of the noise.  Because sound travels so much more slowly than the light, we saw the rocket take off, and then got to listen and feel the sound catch up, starting from silence and working up to a roar that I could feel make my jacket vibrate.  Impressive, given that the rocket was a few miles away.

After the launch, we watched the sun rise on the bus on the way back to the hotel.  Then we promptly went back to bed and slept for an hour or two.  At that point, we still had all day left.

Aha -- the hotel was right next door to Mission Santa Ines, which conveniently was the mission that Nim had to do a project about way back in fourth grade.  Naturally, we took the opportunity to visit.

Lucky kiddo got to sleep on the way home.  Adults did not.  Kid thought it was way more fun than a normal school day...

No comments: