Sunday Story: My first rocket launch

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Summary

We’ll see mostly sunny skies for our Sunday. It should be a nice day. There will be a slight breeze but it’s nothing to let hinder you from getting outside this afternoon.

Our next system arrives Monday night, with rain showers. Those will continue through at least noon Tuesday before things start to dry out a little bit again. Rain amounts will be lighter with this system, averaging around a quarter to a half inch across the plateau.

The next significant system should arrive Thursday night. This system has the potential to bring more heavy rainfall to the plateau. There is also a good chance for thunderstorms.

The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) is already highlighting areas to our south for the threat of severe weather on Friday. That threat extends as far north as southern Middle TN. The SPC advises that this highlighted area for a severe weather risk will likely shift a bit in the coming days. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that threat extended toward the plateau. I’ll keep an eye on it.

Anytime we see mild weather in January we have to be leery of severe weather.

Below is the SPC severe weather risk for Friday (day 6) and Saturday (day 7).

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Baldwin’s 7-Day Outlook

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Yesterday’s Almanac

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During the holiday’s, I took a bit of a break from writing my weekly stories for the newspapers. As many of you know, I always share my stories here after they’ve published in the Fentress Courier and Livingston Enterprise. So, if you want to see my story first you better be subscribing to those papers! (ha)

I knew you all would be waiting on a Sunday Story, and I think I have ya taken care of. I dug up my story that I wrote for weatherTAP when I attended my first rocket launch in March of 2018. That’s where my rocket fever started. It’s certainly not where it ended.

I hope you enjoy!

My First Rocket Launch

This was one of those experiences I will never forget for all my life and one that I still can’t believe actually happened. As many of you know, this journey began back in January when I went out on a wild limb and applied to be one of only 20 people to see the GOES-S satellite in its holding facility in Titusville, FL at the Astrotech facility. Had my boss not insisted that I apply, I would have never applied.

I about fell over when they selected me! Always take a chance, folks! You never know if you can do something until you ask (or try). The worst they can say is “no” and then you have your answer and you move on to the next big thing.

Always try for big things. Just try it! If you fail, remember to learn your lesson, dust yourself off, and get up and try something else! Keep working and keep trying. That’s the only way success and great things will ever come your way.

After seeing the satellite at the Astrotech facility, as well as getting to talk to the geniuses who make all this cool stuff happen, I knew this would have to be my first rocket launch experience. The satellite was scheduled to go up on March 1. I applied to be one of 40 people to get exclusive behind-the-scenes access to everything pertaining to the GOES-S satellite (a NASA Social) and I was turned down. I was disappointed but not deterred. I moved on to the next big thing.

So, I applied for a press pass. I wondered if being in charge of social media would qualify for a press pass access but, as it turns out, nowadays NASA considers social media to be as much press as anything else. And we are the press, but not in the traditional sense (I like this much better!). I was granted press access!

I then got an email saying that only the press could watch the launch from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at the Kennedy Space Center. This is the tallest single-story building in the world. But, they warned that only 20 would be accepted. I applied and held my breath….. I was accepted! And guess what? The group of 40 I had applied to earlier didn’t even get to apply to watch from the VAB roof. That was only for the press! It all worked out for the best (as it always does if you keep working, right?).

The press also got to tour a hurricane hunter plane that morning. That was wild, folks! I also learned that those things were NOT designed for tall people. I was practically on my knees in that darn thing. This was the plane that flies up and over the hurricanes, at up to 45,000 feet up. They drop the dropsondes into the storm, collecting wind, temp, and pressure data as it falls through the storm. The package eventually biodegrades in the ocean water. I was able to talk with a crew that flies these missions often, and I’ll have MUCH more on what they had to say as we get into hurricane season and this becomes much more relevant. Hurricane season starts June 1st.

So, then I had time to kill. I went and grabbed some lunch and kept Twitter and Instagram updated. Our weatherTAP social media followers were absolutely loving this. Facebook limits posts, especially with the new algorithm, so I have to be careful how much I post there.

I patiently waited.

Occasionally, I would get out of the truck and walk around taking pictures and talking to other members of the media. All the big ones were there…weather channel, weather nation, etc.

You remember when we had the eclipse and time seemed to drag? Then, as we got close to eclipse time and time seemed to speed up and then …..BOOM…it was eclipse time and it went really, really fast? Well, that’s exactly how this went, too.

They called for our attention and we boarded our buses to head over to the VAB building. We could have easily walked but I don’t question these things (ha). Not everyone runs marathons, right? And then it was quite the ordeal to get on top of the roof, but we made it. What a view!!! This building is 44 stories tall and the surrounding landscape is flat as a pancake. Big lightning rods were everywhere and I can’t imagine how many times that building gets struck by lightning.

I walked to the edge and, off in the distance, I saw it. Sitting on the launch pad. The satellite that I had been only feet away from just weeks ago was now within a capsule, perched upon the top of one of the most powerful rockets that we have. It was amazing. We had about an hour to kill before launch. The least little thing would cause a delay but the surface winds were the only thing that threatened to hinder the launch. Other than that, the weather was perfect.

Then, time started flying and the next thing I knew it was 30 seconds and counting! My heart was racing. And then…….5….. 4….3…2..1.

It’s at this point that I have to grab for adjectives, any word of description, that I don’t have in my vocabulary.

It fired up and lifted up off the launch pad. It was so bright, folks! That part really surprised me. The flames were so bright against the well-lit sky. I can’t imagine what a night launch would be like. It would probably light up the whole Space Coast. And off it went! It got a few thousand feet up when something really weird happened. You could hear the sound coming. I know that doesn’t make sense but you could hear the sound waves hitting in the distance, on their way to us. And then……

BOOM…the sound waves hit us…right in the chest. And the VAB building’s floor vibrated and I had no words. One of the reporters next to me just kept saying, “I don’t know what to do..what to say?” And then she just cried. And up and away it went. It was at about this point that I realized I had dropped my phone. I was still shaking and I just didn’t realize I wasn’t even holding it anymore. The eastern sky had just been split wide open by this thing and now all that remained was a trail of smoke. And it all happened so fast. And I looked so hard for one more look and then….out of the smoke plume I saw it one last time, jetting off into space. It’s hard not to get emotional even typing this.

I’m hooked. I want to see more launches and I want to see them now!! (ha) One thing is for certain, I will be back. I will be back for many more. I can’t even begin to imagine seeing a manned launch, but that’s coming soon. Before we know it, we’ll be heading back to the Moon (it’s about time!) and then on to Mars (finally!). And there’s no telling what else we’ll come up with.

Believe it or not, this is my very condensed version of the story. I compare this to seeing my first tornado, but out of respect to Ma Nature, I have to leave my tornado at the number one coolest thing I’ve ever seen (it was an EF-4, for Heaven’s sake! ha). But this is a close second, folks, a very close second.

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