Space Coast /A Day In The Life 


“Look at the Ball of Fire!”

2004 — Rose shrieked to get the attention of her 5-year-old grandson, wanting him to appreciate what was happening in front of them. For both, it was their first launch. Rose might have been 50 years older, but that only made the moment more exciting for Rose.

They were standing on the bank of the Indian River (Intracoastal Waterway), looking across toward Merritt Island, Mosquito Lagoon, and Cape Canaveral.
The family, from Plantation, was spending its first weekend in the small turn-of-the-20th-Century cottage on the River Road in North Cocoa. My mother was along for the ride that day, reminding of the time more than 40 years earlier, that she took my brother, my sister, and me into our front yard to watch Alan Shepard fly. (May 5, 1961).


July 16, 1969 — Eight years later, at our house at 2806 (Alan) Shepard Drive, we watched Apollo 11 leave on its way to the moon.
July 20, 1969 — Four days later, we were up late, in the living room, watching on our brand-new, Sears & Roebuck color TV, the grainy, black and white picture of Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, and hearing him speak.

“That’s One Small Step for Man
One Giant Leap for Mankind.”

In the video here, after a short ride on the River Road, along the Indian River, and through Rockledge (my hometown), we meet a young family from Fort Lauderdale, spending the weekend in the turn-of-the-century (1900) Florida cottage.
My mother and I were invited in (local style) to watch television, waiting for the countdown to reach a couple of minutes, when we’d all go outside, take our positions, look across the Indian River (Intracoastal Waterway) toward the VAB (Vertical [vehicle] Assembly Building), where Discovery sat ready on pad 39B, awaiting ignition and launch.
Most striking to me, as often, is the (audio) reaction of those witnessing their first launch. “Look at the Ball of Fire” is only the beginning.