Henri and I usually try to spend carefully on this adventure —some “office” days on a free campsite, we even manage to live with less than $5— but there is one experience for which we knew we were going to splurge: a visit to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. I’m not a real space nerd, but come on, you can not be indifferent to the fact humans are able to launch rockets into space and even landed on the Moon.
Recently, the Elon Musk / SpaceX hype has been pretty cool to read about in newspapers. Maybe you will disagree but I have the impression that NASA was becoming a vintage/outdated topic in the past couple decades. A thing of pre-2000 era… I mean, it’s expensive for tax payers, you don’t necessarily get a lot of return on investment, so it was meant to become almost unpopular in post-2000 world. I’m sensitive to the fact that rich nerds decided to not let Space Conquest die in the 21st century by motivating private / non research investment and launch purposes in the field. France used to have a pretty decent space program too (in French Guyana) and “Ariane” launches were making the news frequently. Not sure where it is now as we rarely hear about it (lost in space?) and we don’t seem to have enough Jeff Bezoses or Elon Musks in the E.U. to make this sustainable in today’s economy.
Anyway, it’s amazing to view a Rocket Launch and it’s a “once in a lifetime” type of experience. We saw the Space X Falcon 9 launch of March 30th 2017. It was the first time in history that a rocket launched successfully with reused components (the first stage of the rocket).
We brought our binoculars with us, which was useful.
You have to be ready at the scheduled time of launch as you don’t hear the sound of the rocket when it starts lifting off. The speed of sound is 340 meters/ second, so you only hear it about 20 seconds after the end of the countdown. Oh and you also won’t hear any countdown… the launch base doesn’t communicate anything with normal people like you. There is just a host with a mic saying things like “this could happen any second now”. We heard that sometimes launches have delays, and people don’t really know when the thing is going to lift off at all. It can be hours. Fortunately, our rocket was right on time!
It’s gone into space!
First stage separation and a nice cloud in the sky, everyone clapping. I heard a lot of “Oh my God it’s amazing” and “woooooow” the whole time (even myself).
We hanged out a bit in the KSC site while waiting for the return bus. There were a lot of SpaceX employees giving each other high-fives and looking thrilled about the success. It was as cool as America gets.
How much: we payed $50 each to get access to the Kennedy Space Center, and then $20 each (+ taxes) to be able to access the special viewpoint from KSC. Once we were there and had already paid everything, we realized that obviously there were many outside spots to watch the rocket launch from for free. But since we wanted to visit the park and get the full experience we were happy we payed the extra $20 to stay there, it was worth it. If you’re a budget traveler there is a K.O.A campsite near the KSC, it costs $27 for a tent / car site.
Ever seen a rocket launch before?