Watching the First Manned SpaceX Launch
Jason Daniel Shaw
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA
I was going to be in Daytona Beach for the first SpaceX Crewed Launch and I was excited! I knew the likelihood of a scrubbed launch was high due to various things, including weather, but I was hopeful. I still planned to make the drive down to my favorite launch viewing point in Port Canaveral to watch this historic event.
I have been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for many historic launches and a few sad ones. Growing up in Florida, every space shuttle launch was a special event. I can remember in elementary school, we would watch the initial countdown on the old tube televisions that were mounted up in the corner of every classroom. Once the shuttle cleared the launch pad, we would run outside to see it rocketing into space. I vaguely remember the Challenger tragedy but the aftermath of it is engrained in my mind. We caught a rare event on a field trip to Kennedy Space Center one year, the space shuttle landing at the Cape from a space mission. Normally the space shuttle would land in California and be flown atop a 747 back to Florida. However, on that occasion, the weather was perfect and they were able to go directly to Florida. I remember watching the Space Shuttle Columbia’s last launch from the top of the Merritt Island mall. It wasn’t until I had moved to California and the Space Shuttle had retired that I had realized how much I missed launches. I watched the launch from Vandenberg here in California when SpaceX first landed the Falcon 9 first stage on land. Working for Northrop Grumman has afforded me the opportunity to be in Melbourne for many launches since we have a facility there. I was there for the first Falcon 9 Heavy operational launch and an Atlas V launch.
The weather was main nemesis for the launch. There had been tropical activity off the coast and it was wreaking havoc on the potential for launch. As I made my way down I-95, the rain started to come down. I was getting frustrated but still had optimism. The GPS said that I would arrive just in time for the instantaneous launch window. As I got closer to the Cape, the weather cleared and looked like a launch could be possible. My co-workers were texting me in a group chat, giving me updates, while they were watching the live stream in California.
This was a historic launch, first manned flight since the shuttle from American soil and the first ever for SpaceX, during historic times, COVID-19 had the world shut down. That meant that, despite the warnings against it, lots of people wanted to and had ventured out to see the launch. The traffic on 528/A1A looked like Los Angeles during rush hour. The GPS warned that I might not make it in time to see the launch. After all of that travel, all of the weather scares, would traffic be the reason that I would miss the launch? It was going to be close.
I arrived at my parking spot with just minutes to spare! It was time to get my camera and find a place to setup for the launch. That is when I got the text from my coworkers that the launch had been scrubbed due to weather. I was defeated. The next attempt would be on Saturday but we would unfortunately be in Fort Lauderdale by that time so I would have to watch the historic launch from the live stream. An in-person launch would have to wait until another trip.