Saturday picture show: rocket launch

This afternoon I happily watched the launch of the Atlas V rocket carrying Curiosity, the next generation Mars rover. Viewing it live, I was utterly dismayed at an interruption in the live stream at the exact moment of liftoff. By the time the stream resumed, the rocket was punching through clouds. Augh!

Fortunately, we live in a time of instant replays and unbelievably fast posting of videos. So while Curiosity was zipping along, dropping in and out of data contact before its final fuel burn and separation, NASA obligingly filled the time by showing the launch from over a dozen different cameras. So cool.

Every time I watch one of these, I am amazed all over again that I can sit in my home in Portugal and watch the live launch of a space vehicle in Florida. And now we don’t even have to use our computers. Did you know that NASA has apps for the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch? I’ve no idea how these got by me, because NASA released them a month ago, but they’re excellent apps. They include NASA TV, mission launch schedules, overhead sighting opportunities for the ISS, and both the NASA Image of the Day and the Astronomy Picture of the Day image libraries. And, of course, videos.

So I installed the app on my iPad and watched the launch all over again. It looked even better the second time around.


About Fletcher DeLancey

Socialist heathen and Mac-using author of the Chronicles of Alsea, who enjoys pondering science, politics, well-honed satire (though sarcastic humor can work, too) and all things geeky.
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9 Responses to Saturday picture show: rocket launch

  1. JR says:

    Oh, good. I thought of you this morning–hoping you’d been able to watch the launch. It was fantastic in person! It’s been fun watching the sign just inside the Kennedy Space Center gate change every day: 3 days to launch, 2 days to launch, 1 day to launch…My breath actually caught in my throat this morning when I read, “0 days to launch.” We had to arrive at our viewing sites at stupid o’clock in the morning, but that pretty much woke me up.

    Catherine and I watched from different vantage points (I was closer, but she had the better view), and we’re both still a bit high from the experience. There were only about 200 people where I was, maybe 1000 where she was, and when we were comparing notes, we both remarked on how quiet it was before lift-off. Where I was, it was basically wind and birds and a bunch of out-of-synch smart phones streaming NASA TV (it sounded like the human mic at the Occupy protests).

    I got to go out to the launch pad yesterday, which was awesome.

    I feel like I learned a billion new things this week, and now I need to dump them all out again so I can go back to work and focus on…god…what am I supposed to be teaching on Monday? We’re about halfway through the 1,002 mile drive home now, hopefully my brain will sort itself out before I get home.

    I have no idea where I’ll be in the world next August, but wherever I end up, I’ll be holding a Mars Landing party (whether it will be a celebration or wake…only time will tell). Everyone’s invited!

    • oregon expat says:

      Dang, JR, when you said you were “there” I didn’t realize you meant THERE. Fantastic! I’m totally envious. How did you get passes?

      • JR says:

        Sorry, I guess “I’m here!” probably needed more context. At least that shows that I haven’t overwhelmed absolutely everyone with babble about MSL. “Thanksgiving? I’m having lunch with an astronaut! What are you doing? Dinner with the in-laws? Did I mention I’m going to going to see the Mars Science Laboratory launch? In Florida! At Kennedy Space Center! Atlas V! Curiosity!”

        Catherine and I followed different paths to the launch. I applied to a lottery run by NASA through twitter–150 out of 1050 or so applicants for a two-day launch event. The first day was full of presentations and Q&A sessions by various members of the MSL team, followed by an incredibly awesome tour of Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. The second day started with Q&A sessions with a couple of astronauts and Bill Nye. And then the launch!

        Catherine attended due to the generosity of a complete stranger, who included her as part of her Congressional VIP pass issued out of Gabrielle Giffords’ office. It was awesome in a different way–mission briefing, multi-day pass to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, different bling than NASA gave me, more time with Charlie Bolden before the launch.

        It must have been awesome, because it took us 17 hours to drive there, 20.25 hours to drive back, and I still think it was worth it. And I honestly did think, “Oh, it’s too bad Oregon_Expat isn’t here, she’d do a much better job than I will when I try to write about this on my website.”

        • oregon expat says:

          What a great adventure! Thank you for sharing it. (I can’t believe you won a Twitter lottery.)

          And, for the record, in your place I’d bore everyone I knew to tears with precisely the sort of babble you outlined. Then when I got home — watch out. Babble to the tenth power.

  2. Jbrandao says:

    does this rover carry a microphone so we can hear the sound of mars? I remember a few years ago, one of the rovers had a mic, but something went wrong (probably crashed) and they never managed to contact that particular rover and activate it.

    • oregon expat says:

      So far as I can tell from the MSL fact sheet, no. But you can check it out here.

    • JR says:

      If you’re thinking of the Mars Microphone designed by the Planetary Society, that flew on the Mars Polar Lander mission. Unfortunately, the Mars Polar Lander never established communications with control after the descent phase (yes, probably crashed), so…no microphone. The Mars Phoenix also had a microphone, but it was never used because it was part of a larger system that was never powered on because they thought it was cause a critical error and end the mission.

      As far as I know, Curiosity doesn’t have a microphone. I wish someone had thought to ask about it on Friday, as surely someone near me would have known. We did talk about the rover’s ability to “smell” gases with the SAM instrument–a couple of representatives from France’s space agency were at the launch, and I guess they developed the gas chromatograph. But no talk of sound.

  3. CathyW says:

    I’m interested in the app. Do you have to pay for it ? I don’t have an ipad yet , but I have entered a competition to win one lol. My sister does have one so I can pass this info on. Thanks


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