Sunday, December 17, 2006

Minotaur Rocket Launch on Wallops Island

We were there! On Wallops Island! Watching the rocket go up! It was cool. The kids loved it.

Yes, you can see pictures up close on the front page of the paper, but we (and our dog) actually got up at 3:30, drove up to the NASA Flight Facility on Wallops Island, and stood at the edge of the marsh when the rocket climbed into space. We and all the other nerdypants people freezing our bottoms off got to hear the roar, see the fireball, and watch it disappear. It was so cool. The exciting part took about a minute and a half, but it was worth it.

Here's our home video:

A few observations:

1. The sunrise was almost as beautiful as the launch itself. I've never seen the sun rising off the marsh like that -- it was photoriffic. Getting up super-early wasn't that big of a deal. The kids kind of loved it. We were tired later in the day, but we survived. With two small children, I don't count sleep as a necessity anymore.

2. Rocket launches are cooler than NASCAR races. You can bring your dog. And you hear the word "telemetry," which is something outside our every day experience. We stood by the NASA facility's visitor center to watch, and they were broadcasting the chatter between the technicians, and also the countdown, from loudspeakers.

3. Because the rocket spins as it rises, the exhaust trail looks curly. As it rose up through the different striations of cloud and light, it turned different colors of gold and pink. Doing a bit of research on the spinning, after we got home, we learned that the word "gimball" is actually a word that means "The rocket normally wiggles around and goes off course." Apparently, this is why they spin it. I thought Lewis Carroll made that word up.

4. The kids now need a countdown every time they click the switch to light up the Christmas tree lights.

5. Homeschooling is awesome for the adults involved too. In the interest of providing an enriched environment for our homeschooled kids, we've given ourselves a lot of cool experiences we probably wouldn't have bothered with if the kids were in school. This is one of them.

There are more launches planned for next year. I highly recommend going up to get a closer look!

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