0017 Cape

Project: Alt Text

There is a hotel a few miles north of Palm Beach that is sandwiched between a couple of sprawling Florida highways. There is a large office park within walking distance, but otherwise, the hotel is an island surrounded only by other hotels and access roads.

To the east, after crossing a highway named for the Confederate States of America, smaller, sandier, and less problematic roads lead to Juno Beach and a state park.

Go west, up the ramp onto the interstate, and drive north for three hours, skipping dozens more beach towns as the palm trees stream past and there will be a small causeway to Merritt Island.

Follow signs, enter the enormous parking lot, exit the car, and walk back towards the long line that winds its way out from the turnstiles that sit in the shadows of rockets.

With a couple of hours to spare, walk through the gift shop and the large, open cafeteria that doubles as a small space museum.

Another line, a shuttle ride, and short walk reveals a cluster of bleachers looking east. In the distance, past the trees, over the water, find what might appear to be a tall, narrow building.

And wait.

Wait until the sky begins to turn from bright blue to pale orange. Wait as the other onlookers filter in and begin to fill the seats.

Wait for the loudspeaker to come alive and listen to dozens of strangers begin to go through the prelaunch checklist, item by item, result by result.

Wait for the launch status check. Go.

Wait for the launch readiness check. Go.

Wait for the senior staff check. Go.

Wait for the payload readiness check. Go.

Wait for the safety check. Go.

And then wait for the weather check. And hear the pause. And don’t exhale just yet.

No go.

Now, breath. Sit for a few minutes and stare at the clear sky and wonder.

Then a short walk back, another line, a shuttle ride.

Meander through the small space museum that doubles as a large cafeteria, and through the gift shop, and reverse a turnstile that sits, now, in the longer shadows of rockets. Motionless rockets.

Find the rental car in the enormous parking lot, now half-empty, and drive the three hours back to a hotel near an office park a few miles north of Palm Beach, still never having seen anything leave the Earth’s orbit.

And remember that you were fortunate enough spent an afternoon in the warm sun, looking past the palm trees at the still, quiet water and the clear, blue sky. And hope for better luck for the anyone who might sit on those bleachers tomorrow.

“Palm trees and water, looking toward Cape Canaveral in the distance where a rocket, not destined to launch this day, sits waiting in front of a blue sky, beginning to turn pale orange in the fading light.”