ORLANDO, Fla. — After a second postponement, several Artemis spectators were understandably disappointed but said they supported NASA’s decision regardless of how far they may have traveled.
David West, 52, and Janna West, 44, both of Atlanta, made the trip south Friday evening and were among the many at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral to learn NASA scrubbed its second attempt at launching the 322-foot-tall Artemis I rocket, which would lay the groundwork for the space agency’s plans to return humans to the moon.
“We’re going to be big supporters of this no matter what. It’s not gonna dissuade us in the least,” David said. “With something that’s this complicated and has this many things that have to go right, you can’t afford to make mistakes. Naysayers want instant gratification and they don’t understand that thousands of people work on this thing and they want to see it work. They want to make sure that when people go up in this thing they do it safely. However long that takes, it’ll be worth it.”
NASA officially waived off its Saturday plans at 11:17 a.m. after a liquid hydrogen (LH2) leak thwarted tanking of the rocket’s core stage. It was NASA’s second attempt at launching Artemis this week after the first mission was scrubbed because of an engine issue.
The first scrub came as welcome news to the West family, who were unable to attend Monday’s launch due to work, but dropped everything they were doing Friday when they learned of NASA’s Saturday plans. David, a lifetime fan of space exploration, had never seen a rocket launch before.
The Georgia couple left their home at around noon for an expected seven-hour drive to the Space Coast and arrived nine hours later at a Brevard County hotel because of heavy traffic congestion. They woke early the next day and arrived at Jetty Park at 7:30 a.m. securing a spot overlooking Port Canaveral, The couple’s tailgate was complete with a large battery-operated fan, umbrellas, Bluetooth speaker, snacks and drinks. David, whose love of rocketry began after his father introduced him to “Star Trek” as a child, was disappointed but optimistic about NASA’s future plans.
“We knew this was a possibility,” said David, who was wearing an Artemis I rocket shirt. “The first time we stepped on the moon was the same year I was born. To think we haven’t been back since , it’s beyond me that it took this long for humans to go back and be the explorers that humanity has been since the 15th century. It feels good knowing that we’re back on track.”
Given Monday’s massive estimated turnout of 200,000 spectators, Brevard County officials expected a gathering of 400,000 Saturday afternoon because of a combination of Artemis fans and Labor Day weekend holiday travelers, according to Brevard County Emergency Management. However, as a result of the scrub occurring before the launch window opened, Saturday’s turnout may have been less than predicted.
Although State Road 528 experienced heavy traffic on the way to Cape Canaveral, much of it may have been attributed to cruise line travel and Labor Day beachgoers. Jetty Park didn’t fill up Saturday and experienced normal Labor Day crowd numbers, according to Port Canaveral spokesman Steven Linden.
As soon as NASA scrubbed the mission, some Jetty Park spectators immediately began packing their bags.
“It’s like the whole thing is cursed,” said Lindy Goodman of Micco, who accompanied by her husband Arnold, previously made the trip early Monday to watch NASA’s first attempt.
The Goodmans traveled with neighbors to Jetty Park, arriving at 7:15 a.m. During their Monday trip, the Goodmans departed home at 2 a.m. in order to enter Jetty Park at 5 a.m. for the first Artemis launch opportunity. Despite making the early trip both days, the group was in good spirits about NASA’s decision to delay.
“I’m disappointed, but you know, better safe than sorry,” Arnold said. “Look it’s $4.1 billion every time it goes up. You don’t want it to blow up. It’ll go up when it goes up. You can’t do anything about it. Thankfully we live here in Florida and we’re retired. So, you just drive back when it’s ready.”