Florida has become this week’s destination of choice in the US as NASA ‘s Artemis 1 launch to the Moon approaches .
Watching the launch of a rocket to the Moon is “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” says an emotional Joanne Bostandji, as she prepares to watch the launch on Monday of the American SLS mega-rocket, NASA ‘s newest and the most powerful in the world. .
The 45-year-old, who traveled from the north of England with her husband and two children for a space-themed holiday in Florida , describes her plan for D-Day: “driving in real early in the morning and getting a spot.” on Cocoa Beach, not far from the Kennedy Space Center.
“I know it’s going to be a long way from there, but I still think it’s going to be a sight to behold,” says Bostandji as he waits with his family to enter a park dedicated to space exploration.
Between 100,000 and 200,000 visitors are expected to attend the launch of the Artemis 1 mission , which will propel an empty capsule to the moon as part of a test for future manned flights.
The “historic nature” of Monday’s flight, the first of several in the US program to return to the Moon , “has certainly heightened public interest,” said Meagan Happel of the Florida Space Coast Tourism Office. .
Traffic jams are expected from 04:00, with the launch scheduled for 08:33 (12:33 GMT). And more people could travel to the area if the takeoff is delayed due to bad weather, since the next possible date falls on a weekend.
The hotels on the coast have been full for several weeks, and parking spaces near the best viewpoints are limited.
Sabrina Morley was lucky: she was able to rent an apartment not far from the beach and will go with her two children and a few dozen other people on a boat chartered for the occasion by the Star Fleet Tours company.
For $95 a ticket, “we’ll go out into the ocean as close to launch as possible and watch the liftoff from the ship,” he says.
“I’ve never been this close to a launch,” explains the 43-year-old, who grew up in Orlando, less than an hour away.
As a child, she could watch the space shuttles take off from her backyard, like “a big orange ball of smoke” rising into the sky, and even hear the explosion as they broke the sound barrier.
Morley likes that NASA ‘s Artemis program aims to land a woman on the Moon for the first time, in a manned flight scheduled for no earlier than 2025.
“Representation is important,” he says, looking at his two-year-old daughter, who is already wearing an imitation astronaut helmet.
Blessing for the economy
The return of space launches is an economic boon for the region. A family of three will spend an average of $1,300 in four or five days, according to the tourist office.
On the main road to Merritt Island, the peninsula where the Kennedy Space Center is located, Brenda Mulberry’s space souvenir shop is packed with tourists. At the entrance offers locally printed Artemisa t-shirts. Only on Saturday she made 1000 copies.
There has been an influx of customers in recent days, says Mulberry, who founded “Space Shirts” in 1984.
“They’re excited to see a NASA launch , because the private space sector business doesn’t excite people that much,” he says.
This SLS rocket “belongs to the people,” adds Mulberry, who displays a large mock-up in front of his store. “It’s his rocket. It’s not SpaceX’s rocket.”
Nostalgia for NASA ‘s Apollo program is also present: 50 years have passed since the last time a manned mission went to the Moon , in 1972.
“My family had to go to the neighbor’s house to watch (the Apollo missions) because they didn’t have a television,” says Bostandji, who was not yet born. “Now we’re going to see it, hopefully, live,” he enthuses. (AFP)