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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Artemis 1 Launch - Space Room Camping

A lot has to go right to launch a rocket. Almost as much has to go right to try to watch them launch a rocket.

Like so many kids of my era, I've had a life-long fascination with the space program. I'd never got to see a live Saturn V launch, but I did manage a shuttle night launch once. It was incredible.

Years ago, when I first heard of NASA's SLS, which would be almost as tall and more powerful than any other rocket ever built, I added a mental bucket list item - to see one go up in person.

This summer, they tried more than once to launch Artemis 1, the first SLS rocket, but they couldn't get the wrinkles ironed out.

We hoped that somehow the new launch date would coincide with our return to Florida for the winter. Throw a Hurricane Ian in there and September/October became November, and we were in business.

The next thing I needed was a place to watch the launch. I have a second cousin in Titusville, who worked in the space program, and who lives within walking distance of the Indian River shore, with a perfect view of launch pad 39B. Sorted.

Finally, we needed a place to stay. As soon as the dates were announced, I booked an ocean front room in Daytona Beach Shores, an easy drive from Titusville. A bunch of Hilton points and $150 got me four nights, enough coverage for the first two of three launch windows. It would be fun to hang out on the beach for a few days, and hopefully take in the big rocket.

Boy did I fuck that up. For some reason, I was completely out of touch with just how much damage Ian had done, and where. I was mostly concerned with the west coast, and of course, our unit in the Greacey Palms Senior Putt Putt Trailer Park.

But beachfront property in the Shores had been ravaged. Many sea walls were crumbling or down, and properties were at risk. I checked with the hotel and they said everything was fine. Of course it was. And now that the new launch date was set, looking at hotels nearer the launch site, I was faced with $450 a night rates.

Then Nicole hit. My cousin warned me that some condos and hotels were being evacuated, as they were in danger of collapse. With the sea walls busted up, Nicole's waves and tidal surge were able to erode the sandy soil that was holding up the buildings.

Nicole also caused the November 14th date to be scrubbed. We were now looking at the 16th, with the 19th as a backup date.

Well, there was no course of action left. I cancelled my Daytona Beach Shores reservations, got my points back, and started looking.

Through sheer luck, will power, sheer skill, and more sheer luck, the Hampton Offramp Inn in Titusville came up for four nights, covering the launch windows on the 16th and the 19th for points plus $250. SOLD and it would be much easier to navigate the huge traffic tie-ups that come with every launch on the Cape.

This was harder than booking a Vegas trip!

The plan was to keep costs down by using our Ultimate Space Room Camping techniques and having many meals and drinks in our room.

Little did I know that the Quad Queen would go to lengths that I never could have imagined.

Mrs. Flusher began packing up kitchen things, including our newly acquired HotLogic portable 'oven'. Thank you to the many people that have been on my case to get one of these for Vegas! For some reason, I keep thinking it's called a HotPocket, something that can get you arrested for in Utah.

My concern came to horror when I saw the mountain of stuff she wanted to bring with us. The extent of my packing was one small carry-on suitcase, the Little Giant, some ground coffee, and a few of the food items in the cold bag.

The other 27 cubic feet of stuff in the trunk and back seat of the Tercel were hers.

We had a leisurely trip to Titusville, stopping at (where else) a random Waffle House in the Orlando area. Orlando features about 893 Waffles House, so it was just a matter of putting the signal on when we got hungry, and pulling into the next one that came along.

We found our hotel and I shlepped and I shlepped and I shlepped some more, humping the car-full of gear up to the room.

Refrigerator things got put in the refrigerator - condiments, cheese, tuna in packets, sandwich things. Other things got laid out across every horizontal surface in the room, and I dared not even try to make sense of it all. It was a complete clutterfuck.

It was mid-afternoon, and time to start watching, waiting, and worrying. I got in contact with my cousin and we planned to head over about midnight.

After a rest, and some plan-making for the launch window at 1:04 am with my cousin, we had a cocktail and then set out making dinner.

The Quad Queen laid out some bread on a cutting board. Along with one of our good kitchen knifes - the serrated all-purpose one.

"Can you go in the fridge and get me the ham?" she said.

I opened the fridge and looked. "You brought a ham?!"


"An entire fucking ham."



"I like ham."

Outer Space Ham

I handed over the four pounder and made another cocktail, and retreated to the bed to await my turn at food-making. I put my drink down on... a coaster.

"You brought coasters?!!!"



"To put under your drink."

Okay, then.

Mrs. Flusher settled in to eat a complicated rocket salad (with outer space ham and cucumber), and a tunafish salad launch sandwich.

I went to make food. There were utensils. Real ones. Plates. Bowls. A microwave lid. A can opener. Tomatoes. Red peppers. Sauerkraut. 18 bottles of pop, two gallons of water, six cans of beer plus liquor (which I didn't quibble about), tea bags, a quart of cream, a tea mug, a large insulated drinking cup, tea towels, 15 Ziploc bags of varying capacities.

No coffee mug for me.

"You brought cans of soup?!!!"


"Let me guess - because you like soup."

There was an entire stick of capsule crackers to go with the starfield soup.

There were napkins, a bag with our collection of takeout packets of things like ketchup and mustard and paper salt and peppers. There was also, inexplicably, a full bottle of ketchup. There was bread, there was buns. There were two pounds of walnuts.

And there was a deck of cards. Chargers. Cables. And of course, 19 changes of clothes plus all the other various and sundry girl supplies.

I looked in the fridge.



Actually, another item I could stand behind was cooked bacon - that one was brilliance.

I cobbled together a sandwich with some deli meats I'd requested to be brought, cream cheese, and little packets of condiments (sans packets). On the side, pickles.

Yes, she'd packed a jar of Mt. Olive (always good advice) organic dill pickles.

And, oh for fuck's sake, an entire jar of pickled, fucking, beets.

This woman takes her inter-galactic gastro-astronomical creature comforts seriously.

I made and ate a deli sandwich - smoked turkey, salami, and deli sandwich fixin's.

For the time being, we crashed out on the beds, TV on and showing the Artemis count down. I'd brilliantly thought to bring a firestick, so we had access to all kinds of NASA feeds. We napped, waited, watched, worried, waited, and waited some more.

Things were going great this time for the count down, until they weren't. There was a problem, the kind that had caused previous launches to be scrubbed.

We really didn't want to stay up through the launch window, potentially until 3:00 in the morning, hoping for lift-off just to have it delayed yet again.

The "red team" were called out to tighten the bolts on a leaking fuel fitting. 

You couldn't pay me enough to walk up to a rocket that contained enough liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen to product 8.8 million pounds of thrust - more if it went off all at once - and start reefing on some gigantic spark-prone bolts.

We decided to head to my cousin's place and had a nice visit while monitoring the situation from there. Good news, the brave red team had been successful, and NASA were coming up with a new launch time. We decided to walk out to the water's edge, where we'd watch and wait some more.

We had a perfect vantage point, the beautiful ship lit up with floodlights, straight across the water. Like a beacon, a beautiful moon hung almost perfectly above the launch pad. The moon, where the Orion capsule was headed, a quarter of a million miles away.

Almost an hour went by, but we heard applause from a nearby restaurant, and I knew from that that there was a new launch time, and the countdown would be resumed. Meanwhile, a buddy of mine in the UK was monitoring the coverage and giving me updates about just when they hoped to go.

We got the heads up that the 10 minute countdown had started. More applause from the people drinking on the restaurant patio nearby. I looked at my watch and took a bead on when we might see Artemis 1's massive engines ignite and lift the great beast skyward. It was 1:37 am.

Around 1:47 I gave a little countdown of my own, even though I knew it was a wild-ass guess. 10... 9...

You can guess the rest.

I was only off by 3 or 4 seconds.

The floodlights were suddenly surpassed by a growing, glowing yellow-white light, fringed in billows of smoke. Over the course of just a few seconds, the light became a sun, lighting up all of Cape Canaveral, the river, and the town. Night became day, and Artemis 1 rose majestically skyward.

The word awesome is overused, but I stood literally in awe at this incredible achievement, and, as when I was a boy, it inspired me that I was witnessing history, the dawn of mankind being able to leave our home planet for the unknown, beyond the bounds of our tiny blue planet.

It took quite a while before the sound hit us - the rocket's arc until now had been eerily and beautifully silent. No longer. The roar came, the crackle, the scream of the raging inferno from the engines and solid rocket boosters, the bang bang of the sonic boom as she crashed past the speed of sound, ever accelerating, reaching higher and higher.

I used binoculars for a while. The sound faded, the light dimmed. She was away and flying. I saw the two solid rocket boosters burn out and then fall away, perfectly matched, one on each side, a ballet in the sky.

A couple of minutes had passed. Artemis was far away, appearing as new star, its man-made fire still brightly visible but fading fast as she arced heavenward trying bravely to match the glory of God's universe. She was where she needed to be, home.

I didn't find this out until after the trip, but the Quad Queen had also packed, and brought with us, zero gravity ice cube trays.

Just in case.


    1. Now if it was Ham in the Can by Big "Salami" Johnson...

    2. Beautifully written, Royal. Congratulations on checking off this item which had been on your bucket list for so long!

      - Math Poindexter


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