I got the following email just now from my friend Durward, I thought it was worth sharing.
I am still at the FEMA office in Orlando and we are only about 40 miles west of Cape Canaveral. It is a fairly clear day so we all had a clear view of the Pluto Probe launch from our building. A bunch of us stood on our front steps and waited. NASA kept postponing the launch by 5 minute increments, but at 2:00 pm, with all eyes facing east, we saw it. Needless to say it was small when seen from here, but the rising rocket was clearly visible. It rose above our horizon with a body that was barely visible but a burn that was as bright as an arc welder’s torch. I was surprised at how fast it really moved, straight upward at first, and then veering to the right, eventually leaving a grand arc of exhaust plumage that grew broader and softer as the rocket continued to rise. Within seconds the rocket itself was no longer visible, only its burning thrusters were. The ember grew fainter, and it too was gone, absorbed into our outer atmospheres.
Of course all of us were glad that it went up and didn’t go “off.” We would have been in the path of the plutonium fallout. But the rocket is gone now, fully intact, and beginning its decade-long voyage to the outer edge of our solar system.
I was lucky enough to watch the very first manned space shots in 1960 and 1961. I was in first grade in Takoma Park, Maryland, and the principle had the entire school gather in the cafeteria to watch the launches on TV. And now, here we are, some 46 years later, sending unmanned crafts ever deeper into space, ever further from this humble spinning spec we call home.