It’s Sunday evening and we couldn’t be happier! The rain slowly tapered off during Saturday afternoon and then the clouds began to break up and at about 10:35 pm on Saturday we received the word that the weather was OK for a launch. So, we drove to Kennedy Space Center and when we arrived, we realized that it was a perfectly clear and still night with the constellations laid out above us in a cloudless sky. In short, a great night for a launch!
At about 1:15 am we drove to the causeway across the Banana river at Kennedy Space Center. This spot is only a few miles away from the launch pad and has great views of the rocket. Exactly on cue at 1:52 am SpaceX 4 lit up the area as its engines ignited and the rocket rose off the pad and climbed into the night sky. A few seconds later, a rumbling wall of sound hit us. Rocket launches are amazing to watch but this one was even more special as we knew our experiment was sitting inside the Dragon capsule on top of that ball of sound and fire! We watched until the rocket’s glow disappeared into the night sky and the rumble faded and was eventually lost in the sounds of the river.
High fives all around but no time to celebrate yet. Five am and we were at the Space Station Processing Facility prepping our control samples for integration. 7 am, the NASA team arrived and over the next few hours we got our control samples into their PDFUs and assembled into their BRICs. Then we said our goodbye’s to the NASA team and headed back to our hotel. The only thing left to do was to pack for the trip home tomorrow morning. But first there’s one tradition that I suspect we observed along with many groups around the world who have been working on this SpaceX4 Cargo Resupply Mission. We broke open a bottle of champagne and then promptly fell asleep.
Back in Madison, we were glad to hear that the Dragon capsule docked successfully with the ISS on Tuesday morning. Our experiment was unpacked from the cold bag and hopefully our seedlings are growing as I type this. We will be picking up our samples from Kennedy Space Center once they come back from the International Space Station at the end of October.