I believe my description of Titusville was ‘not a throbbing metropolis.’ And it is not. But it has one HUGELY redeeming quality that very few other communities have. Proximity to a launch facility. Very cool.
We are in Titusville for three days, arriving on Friday and leaving on Monday morning. Titusville is a convenient stop and the municipal marina has a very small mooring field that has an available ball for us to use. With the use of the mooring ball, we also get use of their showers and internet. And Lucky gets to run in a dog park just outside the marina gates.
All of which is good enough for about a day. But Saturday there is a scheduled rocket launch, so we want to see that And on Sunday weather is going to be snotty with high winds and thunderstorms. Might as well stay the weekend.
Normally I’d roll the description of Titusville and our couple of days here into the previous post and call it good. After all, there just doesn’t to seem to be a lot here to write about. I could describe the dog park, but it is smaller than Vero Beach and pales to the ‘dog parks’ that Lucky had in the Bahamas (entire islands for him to roam/explore). People are nice, but people are nice everywhere. Town is fine. Has groceries, a great pizza place and a couple of small parks.
But Titusville has one major thing that can’t be replicated in most other towns. It is within a couple miles of Cape Caveveral, and if there are rocket launches scheduled, you can observe them from the town. Or from the deck of your boat if you are in the mooring field. And luckily for us, there is a launch scheduled for 14 April at 7:13pm: An Atlas V rocket with two Air Force payloads that are to go into geostationary orbit above the earth.1
A side note here. Since we are basking in the glow of free wifi, we were able to watch the live streaming coverage of the countdown leading to the launch of the rocket. And as part of the coverage, there were interviews with a civilian engineer and Air Force major on the payloads that were being sent into space. Their jobs were to describe the payloads, their importance and what capabilities the payloads would provide to the warfighter (the customer, since this an Air Force mission). I have been out of the pentagon for a couple of years and away from the DoD for 13 months. But even with my almost 30 years experience in/around the DoD, I found the explanation of the capabilities to be unintelligible. As did Jan and AJ. The words they both used were in English–it wasn’t a translation problem. But the acronyms and the idioms/cliches was incredible. Both threw out pat phrases that obviously meant something to them, but absolutely nothing to anyone not steeped in the language/life of the air force.
But that certainly didn’t ruin our experience. It would have been nice to understand what was going up into the sky, but not critical. And they did cover how the rocket worked, the three burns that would happen, how the payload was encapsulated in the nose of the rocket, the weight and speed the rocket would reach. All the cool stuff.
We ordered some pizza for the launch, watched the countdown while munching on slices of veggie (Jan), pepperoni (AJ) and junk (Jim) and then at 7:10pm took the long walk to the front of our boat.
We had looked at google maps and knew approximately where the launch pad was located, though we weren’t precisely sure. We are a couple of miles away and there are a bunch of tall buildings and launch pads, so we were scanning the horizon a bit concerned we would miss the launch.
No reason to worry. At 1913 (EDT) an enormous bright fire lit on the horizon and up went the rocket. 200 feet tall and it lifted slowly and then started going faster and faster until it faded from view. The thunder from the rocket got to us long after the rocket had started its trip upward. A bit streamer of smoke marked the trail of the rocket. It was awesome. Like the little rockets that my brother Dave used to launch back on the farm. Except bigger. Like really bigger. And we don’t have to search over 160 acres to find the rocket after launch.
Gotta hand it to Titusville…it is a town that packs a real bang.
1Short note on education. AJ just learned about radio waves and satellites in science. Nothing deep or earth shattering–he is, after all, in seventh grade and hampered by the fact that his father is teaching him some of the material. But we did cover different orbits and this was a great way to solidify what exactly geostationary means. And chemical reactions. And physics. And weather. Like why we are concerned about 20 knot winds, but a 12 million pound rocket probably isn’t too worried. And, as an added bonus, there is an explosion and fire.