Monday, October 27, 2014

Wallop Rocket

I just stood in my back yard and watched a rocket take flight over Virginia.  Kind of exciting, for reasons beyond the tiny, bright light in the twilight sky - and I am kicking myself for not taking my binoculars outside.

Once I saw it, though - no question of going inside and missing a moment.  It was just neato-spedito, to use the term of excitement popularized by my bro closer to a certain moon landing I caught as an infant, but don't properly recall.

On the phone with my mom waiting for something to appear, she and I were frustrated by multiple airplanes - but, once I did see it, there was no mistaking the tiny, but unmistakably vastly distant, fiery light in the sky.  Smaller than a plane, but more vivid, and with the barest visible (for my eyes, not what they once were) trail of light.

As it arced from the south in what may have been a curved trajectory eastward and away from the Earth, the steady light appeared in the minutest way to flicker - from the puny vantage point of a woman in a backyard, it looked like it was turning away and perhaps the irregularity of its afterburners "face on" (or bum on, more like) allowed the intensity of the faraway fire to show its dim, distant flares from the different angle.

The speeding star of light started out farther south than I expected to see it, my catching it when I did was almost by chance.  Its distance was impossible to quantify in description, but this light was clearly not on a plane with the planes; something ineffable communicated that it was very far off - and its speed was clear, given that.

It stayed bright for a minute, but once it took its turn, fairly close to my own parallel, for the east, it diminished VERY quickly.  Even the flaring light that appeared at this point shrunk in my vision bewilderingly fast.

Dad would have enjoyed this.  We'd have come inside and maybe had popcorn - or made it and taken it out with us.  Or chocolate pudding.

Mom and her neighbors didn't really see it, it sounded like, but I'm happy I got to.


Here is the really amazing thing about the whole event, though.  I came inside, pulled up this post, wrote it, and even put the link in above ... before I finally went to the NASA Wallops Island site and decided to look at footage or images or the story.

And the launch was scrubbed for tonight.  Ten minutes before the 6:45 Eastern liftoff, the thing was canceled.

It didn't happen.


Very recently, I learned something in my life that is profoundly and deeply important, which I appear to have blocked out completely.

Tonight, I witnessed something that didn't happen.

The power of the human brain can be breathtaking and beautiful, but its power to do crap like this is seriously disturbing.  I wanted to tell my brother, my nieces all about this.  I did tell my mom.

And it never happened.

I'm not persuaded I'm losing my mind, but am open to the possibility I"m alone there.


TCW said...

Shooting star?

DLM said...

It didn't resemble a shooting star - too long a flight and an unusual trajectory. So I dunno. My mom guessed weather balloon, but that'd have had to be a serious mover of a balloon!

Whatever it was, I did find out at least I was not the only person who saw "something" that evening. A friend I've mentioned several times under the alias "Cute Shoes" called to tell me she was at a team dinner and several folks said they'd seen something at the same time.

The loss of the mission made me so sad. Though it was not a tragedy on the scale of Challenger, NASA successes are one of the few real celebrations of science we seem to share in America, and stir a sort of happy patriotism too. I'm old enough, and child of a scientist, to get a genuine thrill from a real rocket launch.

It was (as we say in my family) neato-spedito, too, to be standing in my own back yard, laptop showing me the live feed of the real takeoff the next night, watching the skies. If the kid I was 40 years ago had envisioned such a thing, it would have been seriously gee-whiz. I enjoy looking around at my life sometimes and thinking about how much *neat* technology has become commonplace since the early 70s!