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2. The Universe / Travel & Transport / Travel
Best Places to View a Rocket Launch
Living in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA offers many opportunities to view launches of shuttles and rockets. Over time a seasoned viewer discovers some very good viewing areas for watching launches from NASA's1 launchpad and the Cape Canaveral Air Station.
NASA, of course, is where the space shuttle is launched from. There are two pads, 39A and 39B, both within a half-mile of each other on the coast. This is also where the Apollo missions were launched from. Most folks go to Titusville and watch the launches from the shore of the Indian River. Though it is a good site, it is extremely crowded and is perhaps too commercial. The shuttle is also moving away from you in a direct line from your position, so the view is less spectacular than it could be.
The stretch of US 528 east of the Indian River, before you get to Port Canaveral is a excellent area for viewing launches. There is plenty of space to pull over to the side of the road, but it can also be a bit crowded. The great thing about this location is that you can see the launch pad clearly, though at a distance. The shuttle is also moving more laterally after it has been launched and you are therefore able to view it for longer. When driving on 528 at night, one can see the shuttle lit up by spotlights quite well. And once it launches you will be blown away by the sight and sound.
Cape Canaveral Air Station is located just south of NASA. This is where the old Gemini and Mercury Missions were launched from. Today, satellites are sent into orbit from there on Delta and Atlas rockets. They average about two to three rocket launches a month, and they can be quite spectacular, especially at night. Most folks go to Jetty Park at the port and stand on the jetty packed like sardines. They are about a half-mile or so from the launch pad, but are so close to it that the low hill across the port from them can obscure the view till the rocket has gained some altitude.
Just behind this area is the beach and there is plenty of room to view launches there. The view is much better on the beach that is about a half-mile south of the jetty. You can actually see the rocket on the launch pad quite clearly and have plenty of room to stretch out, sit down, or even swim in the ocean while watching.
If you visit Florida, arrange to be there at a time when there is a launch. The Florida Today newspaper has an up-to-date launch schedule that is very useful. This is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime magical experience to see. Who knows, if your kids view it with you, they may be inspired to become astronauts or rocket engineers when they grow up, or if you are a kid yourself you may one day be inspired to walk among the stars.
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