17 January 2016
Quynh, Thao and I went down to Vandenberg Air Force Base to watch the launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9. I'd seen two launches, Quynh had seen one, and Thao had seen none.
The turnout was great. There were folk from SpaceX, Planetary Resources, NASA, and others. Conversations ranged from insulation problems to details of the self-destruct. Right on schedule there was a deep roar as the engines came to life. But none of us saw a thing. The photo above shows what we saw when the rocket was flying right in front of us. The wall of fog obscured everything. There wasn't even a glow.
Once the roar died down, we gathered around someone who had the webcast running to listen to what was happening. The connection was rather spotty, but we learned that the second stage successfully made it to orbit, as the first stage headed back to land on the barge waiting for it offshore. Then SpaceX's own feed failed and everyone was left in the lurch wondering if the first stage landing had been successful.
As the minutes dragged on it became clear that the Pacific had eaten the rocket. While sad that the landing had failed, the SpaceX staff seemed somewhat relieved that they wouldn't have to deal with a recovered v1.1 rocket (all facilities are being upgraded for the new v1.2 rocket).