There are stories to be told, maybe, but if so, later. Today was a full day, and a day full of ADVENTURE! The good kind.
Tonight, just the pictures. I’ve had enough time to see what I have and what I missed and clean it all up a bit.
In short, I made it up to Lompoc, about 135 miles north of where I in western Los Angeles County.
The second I opened the window to take this picture, a large, weird bug flew into my ear.
To orient us, the launch site was at Space Launch Complex #6 (Slick-6) as marked on the left side, right near the coast. I was where the blue dot was in the middle right, just barely outside Lompoc city limits. The “heart” pins indicate places where I had flagged from online articles as good places for Vandenberg launch viewing. I was headed for one of the two on Ocean Avenue to the west of where I stopped, but the police had the road closed before I got to either.
I was guessing that we were about eight miles from the launch site. Whatever! This was a new experience, a chance to learn how to do this more in the future. I got settled.
Next to us was a guy working on his field. I have no idea if he loves rockets or hates the crowds. In the background you can see some of the fairly large crowd parked aside the road between his fields.
There was what I perceived to be a large crowd, even if it wasn’t gargantuan. (Try getting out of the Rose Bowl after an N’Sync concert!) Folks were lining all of the roads all the way back into town and beyond, plus any open side road.
There were turkey vultures flying overhead.
There were turkeys taking selfies. Off on the horizon on the left, my best guess by eyeballing the map said that the rocket would come up over one of those two peaks behind that barn.
I was right. (For all of these rocket photos, I haven’t cropped them. They’re all shot with a 300mm telephoto lens – click on the photos to blow them up to full sized, there’s actually some decent detail in the rockets and plumes!)
The rocket cleared the hills about 18 seconds after liftoff. We had plenty of folks with radios who were listening to ULA Launch Control, so we knew when it lifted off.
Remember my guess of eight miles to the pad? That was pretty close, it was just over 40 seconds before we started hearing the engines.
From our vantage point, the rocket seemed to go right next to the sun, which was a rude surpose to those of us (i.e., me) who were looking at it through a telephoto lens.
For a brief time around then there was a really nice condensation trail, which made it much easier to follow.
Here’s a wider angle view from a video screen capture. I’ll have to play with the video to see if there’s anything else that’s salvagable.
Back at SLC-6.
And then there was traffic. And other adventures to tell about later. And maybe video.
Was it worth the three hour drive each way?