Thousands get to view rocket launch

Alex Lloyd Gross- Photo Delaware Valley A photo from a previous launch in 2013. Most people will not get this view.

By Alex Lloyd Gross

For decades, NASA has been launching rockets from a base in northern Virginia,  called the Wallops Flight Facility.  When rockets do go up, interested people go outside and try to catch a glimpse of the rocket.  Some are successful and others are not. It all depends on atmospheric conditions and the elevation of the land they are standing on, vs the horizon,  and the trajectory of the rocket. That all  determines what kind of view people will have.

Last night, October 17. 2016,  NASA shot off a rocket, which was destined to go to the international Space Station, with supplies.  Thousands of people that were curious  lined areas that were near the Delaware  River, hoping to see something.  Most did.  Scheduled to lift off at 7:40 PM, curious people showed up and staked their spot  more than an hour before..  They came armed with cell phones, tuned to the intermittent feed of NASA TV. It kept  cutting out, trying to buffer. They would go to the person next to them, to see if their feed was intact.

Alex Lloyd Gross Photo Delaware valley The view that most people in the region had last night.

The launch was held for six minutes, then liftoff. As people switched their smart phones to camera mode, they were hoping to capture the moment. One must keep in mind that Wallops is over 200 miles away, straight down US 13 . The farther you are away, the  smaller the rocket will appear. Most people in the Philadelphia area saw a small red dot going up in the sky.  In fact, on their smart phones, that’s all they will see, is a photo of a small red dot. That red dot is bigger, the farther south you go. in Sussex County Delaware, it’s even more spectacular.

Most launches are public and NASA has a public viewing area set up  about six miles away. If you do down to Wallops Island, to see one in person, keep in mind that the launch can be cancelled or postponed.  T minus 5 seconds and you are in a hold due to a problem.  That problem cannot be corrected until four months later.  You may get down there hours in advance with everything a go and the launch gets scrubbed due to weather. Bring patience, and bring a real camera.