Posted in Autumn, Eastern Shore, Fire, Gratitude, Photography, Spirit, Virginia

Stuff happens

After
After

Explosions are not comfortable.

~ Yevgeny Zamyatin, Russian novelist

October 2014C 149a
Before. Sunset on Monday.

I know a few of you have already heard about last night’s big explosion of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket at Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  Firstly, M and I are fine.  We were, like many who were with us at the time of the explosion, a bit shook up (literally!), but no one was injured or killed, and for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Last night just before lift-off.
Last night just before lift-off.

The launch was cancelled on Monday due to a sailboat in the “mariner avoidance area.”  The boat, I’ve heard, was 40 miles offshore and they were unable to make radio contact with the person or persons in the vessel (to ask them to move) so, for safety reasons, the launch was called off.

In the beginning
In the beginning.  (You can click on any of the images to see the slightly larger versions.)

A note on the images:  I’m not familiar with how to take photos of rocket launches.  Having seen a few launches, I knew I didn’t want to blow out the images with the intense light.  Everything happened so quickly that I didn’t have much time to make adjustments, but you still get an idea of what was going on.

M and I found a spot about two miles away from Wallops Island, on Oyster Bay.  A lot of other folks are familiar with or had heard about the spot, too, because the place was crowded on Monday evening.  Quite a few folks had driven five or six hours to see the launch.  There weren’t quite as many people on Tuesday, but still a good crowd.  The area is right on the bay and very muddy (marshy and mushy).  We left there quite muddy on Monday, and got there prepared for the mud on Tuesday (as were many others judging by all the wellies on people’s feet).

Still looking normal to us.
Still looking normal to us.

The countdown proceeded on time last night, and there was a lot of excitement in the air, almost a party atmosphere.  Quite a few children were present, and one small group of “kids” (maybe high school or college age?) were filming themselves with a tablet of some kind and taking photos as they talked about the experiment they were sending up with the rocket.

A little bit higher.
A little bit higher.

Everything looked pretty normal to us at first.  Lots of smoke, the flames shooting out of the bottom of the rocket as expected.

Look at the bottom left of the rocket.  See the flames?
Look at the bottom left of the rocket. See the flames?  Is that normal?   I don’t know.  Some speculated that it’s not.

I can’t even begin to speculate about what went wrong because, well, I’m no rocket scientist.  Even NASA doesn’t have an official explanation just yet, and it will likely take them a while to figure it all out.

October 2014C 030a

According to some of the news reports, the range-safety staff may have sent a destruct signal to the rocket to blow it up near the launch pad.  The explosion happened six seconds after the launch.  It seemed longer to me.

My last shot before things went really wrong.
My last shot before things went really wrong.

The rocket was to meet up with the International Space Station.  It was carrying 5,000 pounds of cargo.

The explosion.
The explosion.

I honestly don’t remember taking the photos of the explosion.

Last photo before I hit the ground.
Last photo before I hit the ground.

In fact, I was in a bit of shock, not really sure what was happening.  Thank goodness my valiant knight was there.  He threw me to the ground, trying to protect me (and himself, of course) from the shock wave he knew was coming (and any debris that might be coming).  And boy howdy! was it a shock wave!  There’s a video here that will give you some idea of what we experienced.  It looks to be taken from the same place we were located when the explosion happened, and I think it might even be the guy who was standing to the left and in front of us judging by what I can see in the video.

The sound, I’m told, was ear-poppingly loud.  I didn’t hear it.  M was providing ear protection by covering me.  On the way home M commented that his ears were still ringing.  He’s fine this morning.

Shortly after the explosion.
Shortly after the explosion.

There was a sheriff’s officer directing traffic when we came in on Monday and again on Tuesday.  He came down to the beach/marsh area after the explosion and asked us all to evacuate the area quickly (which everyone did in a relatively calm — as calm as you can be after such an event — and orderly manner).  No debris came our way during the explosion, thank goodness.  Some of the children, and a few of the adults, were upset and in tears.  I heard parents reassuring their children that everything was okay, and nobody was hurt.

Sunlight in the marshes.  (Monday evening.)
Sunlight in the marshes. (Monday evening before the launch was cancelled.)

I reckon that’s enough excitement for now.  Thank you for visiting today.  I will start working on the Walktober round-up post soon.  I am looking forward to walking along with you.  I’m sure it will be a much calmer experience.

Watching the sunset on Monday before the launch was cancelled.
Watching the sunset on Monday before the launch was cancelled.

Be good, be kind, be loving.  Just Be.

The bridge to Wallops Island (where the launches take place).  Sunset on Monday.
The bridge to Wallops Island (where the launches take place). Monday’s sunset.

Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

28 thoughts on “Stuff happens

  1. I am glad you are ok. I am also glad the launch was wiped on Monday, as perhaps conditions were right to cause human injury had it exploded then and not on Tuesday. NASA might be interested in your images, though I expect they would be observing that sort of thing on their own.

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    1. Thank you, Elisa. I thought the same thing about Monday’s launch being cancelled. There are a lot of images and videos of the explosion floating around right now. I imagine NASA might well be rounding them up.

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    1. Thanks, Dawn. I made the mistake of watching the video I linked to in this post, and realized that I’m still a little shook up by it. It’s amazing how far the boom traveled. We had to run some errands last night on our way home (we’d already planned it so we did it), and when we stopped at Lowe’s, about a 30 minute drive from Wallops, the cashier said the explosion rattled the place, and she thought the doors were going to shake off. Probably a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s amazing that they could feel it that far away.

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  2. I keep thinking how shocking it must have been for those young teens who had their ‘experiment’ in the rocket. Glad you all escaped unharmed – seeing the shock wave hit so hard from that distance was alarming! You are right – stuff happens!

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    1. I keep thinking about the kids, too, Pauline. I’ve seen a couple of the videos and the one that really struck me was one in which you can hear children in the background cheering at first and then screaming and crying when the rocket exploded. I’m so glad it was an unmanned flight, and that no one was hurt by any of it. I also hope it doesn’t ruin the space program here. Saw this quote and love it:

      “In the aerospace community, uncrewed rocket failures are simply launches that are rich in learning opportunities”.
      ~Neil deGrasse Tyson

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  3. I briefly heard about the explosion this morning. How suprised I was to realize today that you were close enough to go watch it. So glad you and everyone involved are okay. Those students you were watching must be sadly disappointed about their experiment – small potatoes compared to the rest of the cargo and equipment that was lost, but I’m betting they are still pretty bummed!
    You did get some pretty neat pictures, that’s for sure – especially for not remembering taking them!

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  4. Dear Robin, I was thinking of you last night as we watched the launch live on the local news. Our neighbor was taking his kids to watch it from a spot he knew of in Yorktown. And I knew you and M would be watching it live, too. I’m so glad you are both OK. Thank you for sharing this post, and for your beautiful photos. Yours are every bit as good as other photos – perhaps clearer and more dramatic than what was on TV last night. Thank goodness M was aware of what was coming and got you both down before the shockwave rolled over. We’ve been hearing today about windows blown out of homes in Chincoteague. I hope there was no damage found when you finally got home. We immediately switched over to the NASA channel on TV after the explosion, and listened in to the chatter before they scrubbed that off the airwaves and went to a simple black and white video feed. They were shocked, surprised, and in damage control mode. No talk of a detonation until hours later, I might add. You might like to know that our local weather guys very carefully showed the prevailing winds out of the southwest, blowing all of the smoke, etc. to the northeast, and out to sea. He also showed the radar returns on the debris cloud, and showed its movement to the north and east.
    Happy to know you are both doing OK. What a story!!! Best wishes, WG

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  5. Wow, Robin, what an experience to have been there during that explosion. You’re really lucky no one was hurt or killed, as you weren’t that far away from the launch site. It’s amazing what you captured on film. What an awful experience. And now I wonder what the people on the Space Station will do without the goods they need. Very sad all around. Take care of yourself.

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  6. Whoa – I thought of you immediately when I saw this break on TV. (A lot of people don’t realize there is a danger watching from stuff that falls – including fuel gases – one of our neighbors used to escort all the VIPs at launches – he was always glad to get them immediately back on the bus)
    Makes you really appreciate those first ones who dared and risk all to venture into space.
    Glad you are safe – and although terrible event – you were there. That will be a story to tell for some time!
    Whew. Hang out at home for a while where it’s safe!

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  7. Whoa! First, I’m glad you guys are fine, and nobody was hurt. Second, great shots! and I love your story-telling skills. I was following your story as well as admiring your shots until I reached that explosion part, and I got worried about what happened next.. so it’s really good to know that you guys are fine.
    I didn’t hear about this news though..

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  8. What a horrific experience! You certainly did an epic job of capturing it all – the video you linked to gave me goosebumps, so I cannot imagine the impact of seeing it live.

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  9. OK, I’m in tears after listening/watching that video. So glad you are safe, Robin. You brought it all a bit closer to home for all of us. It reminds me again how when we hear things on the news w can be so far removed from the visceral sense of what actually happened. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. To be honest, it still bothers me, Frank. I told M that I don’t think I’ll go to the rocket launches anymore. I’ve been to two since the explosion and haven’t been comfortable at either one of them.

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Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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