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First -Hand Observations of the 9/29 launch

Posted by: harbinger1337 - Fri Oct 01, 2004 4:57 am
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First -Hand Observations of the 9/29 launch 
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Post First -Hand Observations of the 9/29 launch   Posted on: Fri Oct 01, 2004 4:57 am
I just arrived home from the 9/29 launch. I'm going to post my observations tomorrow. Let's hear from those who attended and their experiences. It was an incredible event and the people who witnessed this in person saw not only history being made, but also the first step in the next phase of space travel......it was truly amazing.

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Post Re: First -Hand Observations of the 9/29 launch   Posted on: Fri Oct 01, 2004 1:43 pm
harbinger1337 wrote:
I just arrived home from the 9/29 launch. I'm going to post my observations tomorrow. Let's hear from those who attended and their experiences. It was an incredible event and the people who witnessed this in person saw not only history being made, but also the first step in the next phase of space travel......it was truly amazing.


Very much looking forward to your post.

Wow! Wish I could have been there. Just watching it on web streaming video was a blast, I can imagine the intenseness of actually standing on the Mojave sands (and/or asphalt) witnessing one of mankind's first tenative stretchings toward the stars!

--Ralph

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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 01, 2004 3:10 pm
Actually, in some ways, I think I prefer seeing it on webcast on my computer. Sure it must be an awesome buzz to be there and be part of the crowd, but the other eyewitness report on this site said that they couldn't really see SSO or that it was doing its rolls, etc. We had the benefit of seeing the onboard video, actually seeing it from the ship as it flew - unless there were big video screens there, us webcast viewers had a better vantage point.

However, I guess it's a bit like watching the football or motor racing on TV or actually being there. The atmosphere of being there is always awesome, even if you can't see exactly what's happening, and the men are little dots running around, etc. :-)

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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 01, 2004 4:39 pm
Well...I'm not sure where to start, so here it goes...

We arrived in Mojave late in the afternoon on Tuesday and decided to drive over to the airport to see what was happening there. There wasn't much going on except TV crews setting up and staff getting ready. There were maybe 20 campers there at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, much fewer than we had thought. There were displays and mock-ups of many of the X-Prize teams' vehicles and explanations of what each team's sytem of transport will be. It was very well done and professional. They were setting up the soundstage for interviews and such. We checked out where we would be viewing from and went back to the hotel.


We woke up at 4:00 AM with a little help from Tom Bodette...if you don't get it...forget it...:-)

We drove to the airport expecting to be waiting in line and were very surprised that even though the gates had been open already for 90 minutes, there was no line to get into the parking area. I believe they vastly overestimated the size of the potential viewing audience as there seemed to be parking set up to accomodate well over 25,000 cars. We were somewhat disappointed to find that the nice area with the stage and all the displays that we had seen the night before was actually in the VIP area which we were barricaded. So 95% of the people who attended never saw the displays and we were lucky that we were curious enough to go the evening prior to the launch.

It was pretty chilly out on the side of the runway where we regular, non-VIPs were stationed. Fortunately, there were vendors who supplied plenty of hot drinks and breakfast foods to keep us comforted while we waited until 6:30 AM for the launch. There were plenty of ex-miltary types there along with families, college students and rocket enthusiasts. There were also a bunch of Trekkies and telescope-toting folks who seemed to be having quite a good time there. There were also booths selling souvenirs, although to be honest, the prices were quite steep for us regular folks for very average-looking merchandise...nothing special there.

The launch was delayed until close to 7:00 AM and as soon as the sun rose, the wind, which had been howling pretty wildly since yesterday, became quite calm, if not non-existent. The announcements were made and the Starchaser and a small prop plane took off. Then White Knight and SS1 taxied and took off to cheering from the crowd. White Knight was much larger than we had thought and more graceful. The crowd watched as WK and SS1 climbed higher and higher, spiraling around the airport/spaceport. It became a game people were playing to try to spot them and the chase planes as they continued to climb as there were times that one had to wait until the planes presented at the correct angle from the sun so that you could see the sun shine off the bright white paint of the aircrafts. At this point, all eyes were on the sky searching for the planes. We kept finding them and losing them. Binoculars were not very helpful as they narrowed the scope of the search. They then launched another chaseplane which looked to be a modified fighter aircraft. We had been standing on the TARMAC behind the school group, the Rocket Boosters, during the launch, but then moved to the right and down to the end of the runway for the actual launch of SS1 from White Knight. We walked to near the end of the runway and chanced upon two folks there who had scanners and we listened to the entire dialogue between the mission control folks and the pilot. Mike Melville sounded very calm during the entire flight. We heard the countdown for the rocket and immediately saw the contrail from the rocket firing ahead of us. We listened the the flight control people and the pilot during the burn , the continued powerless ascent and then the descent. There was cheering everywhere when we heard that they had surpassed 327,000 feet and were continuing upward. We kept listening to the chatter on the scanner and tracked SS1 as it descended. We heard the double sonic boom as the descent began in earnest. The chase planes then closed on SS1 and began the escort on the descent. A few circuits were made around the airfield to slow the descent and then the landings began with SS1 touching down quite gracefully on the runway. Starchaser and the other chase planes followed. After all those planes had landed, White Knight came the opposite way, toward the crowd and waggled its wings and took of almost straight up in a victory stance.

The interviews started again and the program went on . After about 45 minutes, SS1 was towed down the runway by a truck with Burt Rutan, with Mike Mellville standing on top of SS1, talking to the crowd, waving and posing for photo opportunites. It was great that they took the time to come down the runway to take some time with the non-VIPs in attendance. I took a bunch of digital photos which can be posted, although the pros took great pics and I don't know how I could possibly add to that.

I can't speak for others, but for me it was almost a spiritual kind of experience as I've thought for a long time now that we've dropped the ball regarding the exploration of space due to a few accidents, fiscal irresponsibilities and a fear of the unknown and possible tragedies. It's been said here before. This can be a dangerous undertaking and it's not for the faint of heart, but it IS the next phase of our existence on this planet and our destiny, and if the government is no longer up to the challenge, then private industry must take the bull by the horns and push on, with or without sponsorship or support of the government...enough of THAT rant....

We were very surprised by the lack of attendance of this groundbreaking event. We had heard that the initial launch in June drew over 20,000 people. I don't know how many people were in the VIP area, but I can tell you that there were under 5,000 people on the runway where we stood. The parking lot was basically empty as they had prepared for far more people to attend. Those that did attend were very enthusiastic and seemed to have a great time.

I'd like to thank my benefactor in this endeavor...although I was very interested in the X Prize, I had no intention to attend the launch until an old friend of mine contacted me and asked if I'd be interested. I then started doing some research of the event and what the teams were doing and became even more mindful of the effect of this effort.

Now that there is momentum we should push forward as soon as practical. America's Prize is now the next target for an orbital mission. I hope to see that prize be won before it expires after 2010.

Hey...it's only six years...

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Post    Posted on: Fri Oct 01, 2004 8:47 pm
dolby_uk wrote:
Actually, in some ways, I think I prefer seeing it on webcast on my computer. Sure it must be an awesome buzz to be there and be part of the crowd, but the other eyewitness report on this site said that they couldn't really see SSO or that it was doing its rolls, etc. We had the benefit of seeing the onboard video, actually seeing it from the ship as it flew - unless there were big video screens there, us webcast viewers had a better vantage point.

However, I guess it's a bit like watching the football or motor racing on TV or actually being there. The atmosphere of being there is always awesome, even if you can't see exactly what's happening, and the men are little dots running around, etc. :-)


I understand what you're saying because I enjoyed watching it again last night via the download link......but I have to tell you...even though we missed some of the detail you saw live on the webcast, being there was incredible. We also were able to stand near someone with a scanner so we heard all of the status reports and all the chatter between SS1, White Knight, the chase planes and flight control, so we had plenty to go on as far as mission status. I urge anyone who's really interested and has a chance to get there on 10/4 to go and witness it first-hand.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Oct 02, 2004 11:08 am
Plz keep posting because I will not able to be there (live in Belgium) although I saw everything live on the net during working hours (Sssst don't tell anyone)
A couple thousand is still ok I'd think. Next year the XPCUP will draw many more people and if that is a succes and can get media attention, the year after there will be people there from all over the world ...


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Post VIP treatment   Posted on: Sun Oct 03, 2004 1:32 am
I got to go on this technological pilgrimage with the harbinger(see his earlier post in this stream). I flew all the way from Korea via Tokyo to LAX, and then we drove from there out to Mojave together. I’ve been to a number of air shows, one shuttle launch, and several grand prix races. The X-prize format is a blend of those affairs and will only improve with each successive event.

At this point in the X-prize development I think it is only attracting the hardened space junkies, and thankfully a few of those have some big bucks and the guts to support the visionary developers. I believe that is why we see such a relatively low public turnout for these events so far. But change is in the wind.

My hopes and predictions are that the combination of media hype, celebrity involvement (Branson et al), and participation by other spaceship developers will broaden the appeal of these events to a more general audience. The less than hardcore followers (and they will come soon) need to be entertained at a more basic level of thrill, such as a ‘true’ ground level blast-off provides. And can you imagine how impressive it will be to see a vertical take-off and landing on CNN? So hurry up John Carmack, the public needs you.

Meanwhile I think Ansari is playing it right to give special preference to the money people. Without their involvement and investment no amount of general public enthusiasm will matter. Let’s remember, this space race is about economic development, not political competition. So, Mr. Ansari, make the VIP area as good as you can, roll out the caviar and cash flow projections and get those high rollers’ checkbooks warmed up; so the general public at large can enjoy the fruits of those risks. And let’s not forget the rest of us can invest in this effort economically as well by buying stock in the companies who are investing here. I saw some pretty nice automobiles in the general parking area so I know some of you people have a stock portfolio to go with them. Invest now and you could be on the ground floor of the next techno boom to come.

This is the type of good news event we are all thirsty for and can rally around regardless of political affiliation or economic standing. Hopefully we can keep the government at arms length until things get a firm grounding in industry

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