Watching Space X’s Falcon Heavy launch, the future suddenly materialized in front of me.
For years, space nerds have heard about this huge new rocket with three boosters that could land back on Earth after flying payload after payload to space. But did I think it would really happen, and that somehow, someway I’d get to see it live? Nope.
And yet, there I was at 3:45 p.m. ET on Tuesday, standing by the water outside the press site at Kennedy Space Center watching as the Falcon Heavy lifted off into the blue sky above Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The sound of the launch rattled my chest and made me gasp as the rocket flew steadily, slowly up into the air, leaving the Earth behind — but in no rush to do so.
The launch was extreme. You could feel it in your bones, but that wasn’t even the best part.
After moving away from the rest of the rocket and its payload of a Tesla Roadster outfitted with a dummy named “Starman,” the two side boosters flipped and started their journeys back to Earth, landing on two pads here at the Cape.
Even in bright daylight, the flames of the the twin boosters stood out against the blue sky as the rockets flew back to Earth, firing their engines to slow down and land softly. Each announced their presence back on home soil with a sonic boom that echoed across the entire space center.
And I’d been waiting for this launch for years.
I started off my career as a space reporter in 2012, not long after SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced the company would be building the Falcon Heavy and hoping to launch it sometime in 2013. Then the delays came.
The Falcon Heavy was in something of a development hell for year upon year. According to Musk, building the Falcon Heavy — which is essentially three Falcon 9 boosters strapped together — was a lot more difficult, and took much longer to come to fruition, than they initially bargained for.
But now that it has, SpaceX is banking on it.
The company is now the proud builder of the most powerful operational rocket on Earth today, and it’s a far cheaper launcher than other heavy-lift vehicles launching payloads into space today.
Because of that lower price point, SpaceX expects that companies and nations will want to use their heavy-lift rocket over others when hoping to launch big satellites to orbit — or even to the moon or Mars.
The success of this launcher will also allow the company to focus on other efforts including getting the Big Falcon Rocket — a beefed up launcher with 31 engines — flying sometime in the next few years, according to Musk.
If nothing else, this launch taught me something important: It’s always good to be around when one of Elon Musk’s rocket dreams comes true.
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