A cloudless sky reached out endlessly across the horizon. Beneath it, the ocean reached out seemingly just as far, complementing its companion. The empty beach was slowly starting to fill with blankets and lawn chairs as throngs of people appeared, all eager to see history in the making. The day was finally here.
Across the bay about four miles in the distance, SN10 stood tall and proud, ready to attempt a successful landing. Even though two other attempts had been made, each had ended in the flames of failure, both literally and metaphorically. No matter what the outcome, the show was sure to be spectacular.
The goal of todays launch was for SN10 to complete what was being called “The Belly Flop Maneuver”. It would launch, reach 10km, turn off its engines and start to free fall. During free fall it would be in a horizontal position and relight its three raptor engines one by one. Once relit it would transition back into a vertical position and (hopefully) land without incident.
I found a spot on some rocks to set up my gear and waited. We were all tuned into various YouTube feeds watching the launch checklist get updated and the moment drew closer and closer. The only thing left was to launch but then, right after the countdown apparently started, an abort was called.
Was this it? Had it really just been cancelled?
Everyone lined the beach in disbelief, not knowing what to think and one by one, people started to leave.
No need to fret though! We soon got word on the Official SpaceX Channel that another attempt would be made, we would just have to wait two more hours.
Whats 2 hours when you’ve already waited 3 weeks?
Those two hours seemed like two years though, as we all waited apprehensively. Soon enough, the countdown appeared again. It was really happening.
All of a sudden a brilliant orange glow erupted from beneath the ship and it blasted up into the sky, while clouds of smoke covered the launch pad. The ship rocketed higher and higher into the troposphere as the force from its sonic boom rushed across the bay and over the crowd.
I’ll always remember the feeling of its doppler effect. The rumble growing slightly louder as well as higher in pitch until it encompassed my entire being, shaking my body.
As it reached the border of the stratosphere, the engines were turned off one by one and then it was simply SN10 all on its own in the sky. For a moment it seemed like it was suspended there, as if gravity wasn’t going to bring it back down. The sun reflected off of its stainless steel exterior for one brief moment and I would swear someone pressed pause on the world.
And then it started to fall.
As I watched it start to plummet towards the ground, I contemplated the meaning of what was happening in front of me. Was this going to be a turning point for humanity and our search for meaning? Would the ability to go to another planet reignite a passion for science in our communities that had seemed to be lost to art and entertainment?
Engine 1 relit
Would it help push us together as humans? Would a collective want to explore what was obviously so much bigger than us help us unite under common goals?
Engine 2 relit
Would this be a turning point for resource scarcity, opening up the ability to mine the astroid belt and thrust our economies forward into a system that doesn’t have to worry about where the next mine will come from or the ecological damage that said mines have to our planet?
Engine 3 relit
Slowly, SN10 started to turn in the sky. Little bursts of flame would spit out of its side, attempting to propel it into its vertical position. Still, it wasn’t quite upright and the ground was getting closer by the second.
I couldn’t tell if it was going to be able to make it. Were we going to see another crash? My heart raced with anticipation as it struggled to align itself.
And then it was vertical.
It was going to land.
A cloud of dust engulfed the entire ship as it came down onto the ground as the shock sent a wave across the bay towards us. The beach erupted in cheers as everything pointed to a success. Interestingly, I noticed that the rocket looked a bit crooked. Nevertheless, success is success and we all started mingling and talking about the experience we just shared.
I went to see my friend Pedro down the beach and gave him the most amazing of high fives. As we chatted about how amazing of a spectacle we just witnessed, SN10 stood right over his shoulder.
“You know if you had asked me 5 days ago if I had wanted to see a successful landing, I might have told you I wanted to see an explosion for the pictures.” I jokingly told him.
He smiled, knowing that I wasn’t quite serious and then at that exact moment, SN10 blew up.
I rushed to get my camera lens off but alas I had already shut too much of my set up down and I missed the moment.
Was the test a success? Well, at least we can say they got a lot of data.
Closest Supercharger South San Padre Island 1 mi
100 Padre Blvd, South Padre Island, TX 78597
Isla Blanca Park
33174 State Park Rd 100, South Padre Island, TX 78597