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'Boeing Crew Flight Test: Witnessing the Golden Age of Space Flight'

Updated: Jun 17

launch o Boeing Crew Flight Test
Succesful launch of Boeing Crew Flight Test. Read story and watch video below to see how I got it.

Watching the Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) made me realize we are witnessing the Dawn of a New Golden Age in Space Exploration.  Mankind is fixated on placing and keeping boots in the soil of the Moon, Mars and destinations in the stars we have yet to identify.  The commercialization of space is currently unfolding before our very eyes.  This space race is not so much a competition of Nations but of Companies.  SpaceX and Boeing and The United Launch Alliance (ULA) are striving to be major players in the business of transporting people and payloads to low earth orbit.

We previously took you with us on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.  Our little YouTube channel went behind the scenes at the iconic Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to participate in NASA’s outreach program for Social Media Content Creators.  Our assignment was to learn all that we could about the inner workings of KSC and document the historic launch of the Boeing Crew Flight Test and the maiden voyage of the Starliner spacecraft.

Our invitation to the exclusive ‘Nasa Social’ event was confirmed only after we passed a thorough background check. It was made clear to us that the anticipated May 1st launch was subject to change and that we would need to allow for flexibility.  We were responsible for the logistics and travel expenses to Cape Canaveral and lodging once we got there. While it would have been a great opportunity to take “Tag-Along II,” our fifth wheel, as a home base, we didn’t have enough time to make reservations at a campground that would have been convenient to KSC.  So we decided to rent a condo on the beach and take the family with us.

Over the course of three days, the NASA Social team chaperoned us as we met NASA, Boeing, and ULA officials and toured some of the most sensitive facilities at KSC.  We even had a chance to visit Launchpad 41 on the morning of the Starliner launch, where we met the Artimus II crew, who will visit the moon in 2025.

To our disappointment, the launch was scrubbed about two hours before liftoff and delayed until the following week. We had to decline the invitation to return because the following week was already set aside for our Son, his Girlfriend, and our Grandson, who would be visiting from Colorado.  At that point, it looked like Starliner would be launching while we shared the Florida experience with Family.

After another delay, it finally looked like Starliner was going to launch on June 1st, and we hoped to attend. However, at the last minute, Tammy came down with a cold, and Gracie, our Italian Greyhound, had a serious bout of Pancreatitis, which required a visit to the emergency room at the University of Florida Animal Hospital in Gainsville.

On the morning of June 1st, we closely watched the entire live stream of the excitement at KSC.  The helicopters were again swirling over the Neil Armstrong Operations Building, and the crowd of family, dignitaries, and press members were all waiting for Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to walk through the double doors in their flight suits before departing for the launchpad.  We even saw those of our group who had been able to return waving to the two American heroes as they drove off in the Astrovan.

Watching the events we had attended just a few weeks earlier was bittersweet, just like the lemonade we were squeezing out of lemons.  This time, we would have the opportunity to watch the astronauts get ready inside the suitroom, and we learned about the game that has become a NASA preflight tradition.   Before each launch, a game is played until the Mission Commander loses, getting all the bad luck out of the way.  It was hard not to have total admiration for Butch and Suni, who had been in quarantine for over a month, patiently waiting for their opportunity to test the flight capabilities of the Starliner Spacecraft.

And then, at T-Minus, three minutes and fifty seconds, Butch and Suni were strapped into their seats awaiting ignition. The unexpected happened once again.  The second launch attempt was scrubbed. The next Launch window was rescheduled for June 5th, four days later. We felt awful for all involved, but the possibility of witnessing the launch in person was once again alive.

Tammy, Gracie, and I returned to the Space Coast a day before the launch. Tammy and Gracie were feeling better but not completely, so they would stay at the hotel while I would have a second chance to check the launch off my bucket list. As luck would have it, we found an affordable hotel on Cocoa Beach with a perfectly positioned deck for Tammy to watch the launch while I had a front-row vantage at the KSC Press Site with my name on it.

Cocoa Beach Near Kennedy Space Center
Cocoa Beach a great place to watch rocket launches

The launch was scheduled for mid-morning, meaning I would have to leave the hotel before light to meet the Nasa Social Group.  Only six of the original 35 Nasa Social participants could be there for the third attempted launch.  After security screened our equipment with a canine sniff check, we piled into a NASA fleet van and headed for the Astronaut Walk-out at the operations building.  After suiting up, Butch and Suni played stone, paper, and Scissors rather than cards.  It very much felt like the third time would be the charm.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams
Astronaut Butch Wilmore waving to our group

About thirty minutes before the launch, I was turned loose to find my spot on the press grounds where I could best capture the event with no less than four cameras.  I ended up setting up my tripods right behind the huge countdown clock, where I hoped I would not be blocking the view of the hundreds of cameras pointed toward the pad.  As it turned out, I was probably walking right in front of a number of cameras that included the clock in their frames.  Hopefully, I didn’t upset anyone too badly.

Kennedy Space Center Countdown Clock
That's me in the white shirt to the left of the countdown clock

The last thirty seconds of the countdown were a blur. I had two video cameras rolling and a still camera with a telephoto lens locked onto the launch pad. No matter how much planning I had put into the choreography of capturing the event, the ignition caught me off guard, and I had to lunge about five feet to click the shutter.  The rocket had already cleared the tower before I snapped my first shot (look above).

Boeing Starliner Launch
Boeing Starliner Heading to Space with Butch and Suni onboard

You might think this is where our space story ends, but this might only be the beginning.  We’ve been watching intently as Butch and Suni successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS), and I don’t think we will have closure on this chapter until they successfully land in about a week.  As you probably know by now, we can see rocket launches very well from our backyard at our Gulf Coast RV Home Base, and you will find us looking to the East just about every opportunity that we have.  Also, Who knows?  We might just get a chance to watch the Artimus II launch live as it heads for the moon


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