Science Cheerleader contributor, Bart, reports from todays launch of Ares I-X rocket, which marks the first time since 1981, that NASA test-launched a new rocket for human spaceflight. That’s right, Bart was there! And now he’s here, in print:
First Impressions of Ares I-X: I’ve been to rocket launches before, even Space Shuttle launches, but nothing like this. Never this close.
If you’ve never been to a launch before, it’s hard to convey the feelings.
You see the flash of fire and the cloud first. It starts as a dull rumble, nothing special. Then, when the rocket has been airborne for five or six seconds, a wave of sound hits you. You can almost see it push the air aside like a bubble. It is unlike anything you’ve quite heard before. Imagine a long, crackling roar, raised to the level of a thunder going off from a lightning bolt in your back yard. And it stretches out as the rocket ascends, rolling on and on like some magnificent bellowing.
The flame is bright yellow—so bright it matches the intensity of the sun—it’s hard to look at for long seconds at a time. And behind it, the cloud of smoke billows wider and wider from the launch pad, already miles below the ascending rocket. Over three hundred feet tall—bigger than most buildings—and we’re flying this thing. The colossal force is necessary to push such a thing into the air at all. And it’s under control. It goes too fast to see the roll control system puff out its little jets of force, but the camera replays show later that the system worked as intended.
The fire, and smoke and the thunder end much too soon. You want to see more. But just two minutes and three seconds later, the spectacle is done, only a silent, expanding pillar of drifting smoke marking the machine’s passage.
And this was just a test flight. God and the government willing, NASA will be allowed to build the rockets that actually go into space. The best is yet to come.