Insight Launch Guide: “Witnessing History” (Issue #38)

Guest blog by: Rich Cabral

I would like to extend a very special thanks to Mr. Cabral for his tireless work, dedication, and commitment to ensuring the public has every opportunity to view this historic launch.   -N. Willett

“It should prove to be a real crowd pleaser.” –Col. Gregg Wood, Vice Commander, 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg Air Force Base

Launch window opening:  May 5th, 2018, 4:05-6:05 a.m. PST (7:05-9:05 a.m. EST)

Insight will launch from Space Launch Complex-3 (SLC-3), Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, aboard an Atlas V-401.  The rocket will fly in a 401 vehicle configuration and will have no side mounted boosters.

The Mission:  Insight is the first West Coast Interplanetary Launch.   All previous interplanetary launches have been from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

“InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is a Mars lander designed to give the Red Planet its first thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. It is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core.

Studying Mars’ interior structure answers key questions about the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago….”  –NASA/JPL

Besides being a major scientific event, Insight is a milestone in the story of humans in space..

Viewing:  recommended viewing sights:  Click the map below for sights, where to get breakfast or an early morning snack, and where to stay if you plan on hanging around “The Valley”.


Safe Viewing:  There’s nothing like a live view of a launch.  The roar of the engines, the white trailing flame, and the crowd of fellow launch enthusiasts: Its exciting, no doubt about it.  But, Vandenberg Air Force Base is, above all, a highly secure Government sight. So, it’s a good idea to be on one’s best behavior during a launch. Base business is serious business.  Military, city, and county police launch presence makes sure that business is respected and understood. Treat those officials with respect and they’ll do everything they can to help.

Weather/Mechanical/Delays:  Central coast weather is temperamental.  Then, there are equipment problems. As a result, weather, mechanical delays and launches go hand-in-hand.   Three attempts before a successful launch is about average.  Less or more attempts are also to be expected.  Plan to go to a launch, based on the understanding it may or may not happen.  Anything else is unrealistic.

Clothing: At 4am it can be cold in the Lompoc Valley.  Dress in layers.

Hotels:  Here’s a list of Lompoc hotels if you plan on staying overnight.

Hilton Garden Inn

Embassy Suites

Lompoc Valley Inn & Suites

O’cairns Inn & Suites

Holiday Inn Express

If Lompoc is sold out, there are hotels in nearby Buellton, Solvang, Santa Maria

Breakfast after the launch:

Hilton Garden Inn, Valle Eatery, 1201 N. H St, Lompoc  93436; opens 5:30 am.  The Hilton is planning on having food available for purchase prior to the launch. Contact the hotel at (805) 735-1880 for more information.

American Host, 113 N. I Street, Lompoc  93436; opens 5:30 am. If the door is locked, knock and ask for Lisa.  Tip:  this is where the launch crew often goes after a launch.

Cajun Café, 1508 N. H Street,  Lompoc  93436; opens  at 6:30 am.

Stay up-to-date: Insight on Twitter;  Insight on Face book;  Vandenberg on Face book

If you can’t be there: 

Watch the launch live:

Listen to the sound of  a rocket launch in binaural audio immersion.  This is a recording of Falcon Heavy. But, it comes about as close as can be to what a launch sounds like when you’re actually there.

Musically, this is what a launch feels like, particularly at Vandenberg, where the setting, the land itself and the ocean, tell a timeless story of an  epic journey in the human saga: In the early morning hours, with launch lovers all around you, turn up the volume, and know what you are about to witness.

 John WilliamsAmerican Journey- Flight and Technology

Rich Cabral:  Rich has worked many launches at  “Vandy.”

His passion:   “What else:  The biggest step of all in human migration!”