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How to Catch a Rocket LaunchIt's not just for the pros: With a little planning and flexibility, anybody can go watch a rocket blast off.
This guide goes through each of the three U.S. sites that have rocket launches this summer: Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral in Florida, Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It tells you where to go, what to expect and what launches to watch for this summer.
Space.com talked with launch photographer Ben Cooper for the inside scoop on each of the three sites, and also talked with Andrea Farmer from Kennedy Space Center, Keith Koehler from Wallops and Jay Pritchard from Vandenberg. Each site has its own best places to view: Some offer official tours and launch viewing, and others are best experienced from a nearby park or roadside. [Amazing Rocket Launch Photos]
When planning to visit a rocket launch, it's important to remember that dates are rarely finalized until a few weeks to a few months before each launch. And planned launches can be called off or delayed due to weather or technical issues, even down to 1 second before launch. So it's important to make flexible plans and to prepare to stay for a few days if you're determined to catch the launch despite delays. The areas open to you may depend on if you're watching a daytime or nighttime launch.
Check Space.com's calendar and Spaceflight Now's launch schedule for up-to-date information on when launches will happen, and keep an eye on NASA's and the rocket company's Twitter feeds for additional updates. Online communities discuss the best times and places to view launches, so be sure to look for the most up-to-date information and advice on those sites as well when you're interested in a particular launch site or rocket.
And remember to actually watch the launch once you're there, each of the experts told Space.com. Don't be distracted by photography, especially for your first launch viewing.
As Vandenberg's Pritchard put it, "If you're going to make the effort to come watch a launch, come and be a part of the environment to do that, and watch the launch. There are million-dollar camera systems that are taking engineering photos to do this — get those photos. They will be posted almost immediately."
"Don't miss the experience because you're trying to find it in the little digital image on your phone or your camera," he added. "Go and enjoy the show — and stand back and wait for the rumble."
(Launch schedules updated May 30)
NEXT: See a launch at Kennedy Space Center/Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (Click the right arrow at the top of the story to continue)
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