T-Minus 12 Hours: The Vibe at KSC The Day Before Artemis I's Launch Is Unreal

Artemis 1 SLS 13 photos
Photo: NASA
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In a time fraught with unparalleled uncertainty, it can be difficult to find something to be truly joyous about. What with all this talk of war, inflation, and environmental devastation, it can get the better of anybody. But ladies and gentlemen, we're here to tell you today that not all hope is lost. We're going back to the Moon.
Whether Artemis I, aboard an SLS rocket that's the most powerful in history, launches at its first opportunity between 8:33 and 10:33 am EST or at some point later, it will signal the beginning of a new space race. Although, to call it a race in the traditional sense may not be entirely accurate. In any case, the atmosphere in and around Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center is magical in a way that's difficult to describe in the penultimate 24 hours before the good ship, and its cargo is set to blast off.

From the Orlando Airport to our hotel, to the random t-shirt shop a few miles from KSC with a scale model of the SLS rocket out front, there's a sense that everybody in Central Florida has their eyes focused squarely on Launch Pad 39B. Even at the KSC Visitor complex, there was a sense that there was something incredibly special taking place just beyond where all the civilians have sectioned off away from all the scientists and media beyond the Visitor Complex gates.

There was a palpable lack of Central Florida theme park weirdness the weekend before the launch. As if the entire complex at that time suddenly became a religious gathering ground for all the people who've waited their entire lives for another moon rocket to take to the stars. Perhaps there were moments when they thought it might never happen.

It'd be all too easy to come up with that conclusion during the 2010s. It was as if the entire American manned space program had come to a catastrophic and abrupt end after the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program. Watching North American astronauts hitch rides aboard Russian launch vehicles taking off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan instead of from Florida was a blow to the ego that seemed irrecoverable.

Only a handful of Americans still alive today remember what it was like the last time this country had a robust and well-celebrated manned space program. Like the security guard checking bags outside the KSC-VC front gates who watched Apollo 11 liftoff at just 12 years old and who gets to re-live his childhood in ways once unimaginable.

Even the small children attending the visitor's park this weekend were demonstrably less rambunctious and hyper in our experience this weekend. As if even youngsters who were too young to remember the Space Shuttle, let alone Apollo, could still easily identify the sheer importance of what was taking place only a short time after they left the park that Sunday afternoon. They needn't wait longer than a couple of hours to realize their lifelong dreams.

So let this be a lesson for you, even in times when it feels like the sky is falling. As if life is a non-stop, loosely connected series of snafus and unfortunate events. But it's important to remember never to give up hope for the future. When the Apollo program was scrapped back in the early 1970s, no one would blame you if you thought NASA's manned interplanetary space program was all but finished.

Doubly so when we got stuck with the Shuttle program for 30 years, but you know what? All of that waiting, all of that hardship, all those miserable days spent thinking mankind was stuck on Earth for the rest of time is about to pay off. For everyone who held out hope for all of these years, this is your reward, your well-deserved reprieve from the stresses, anxieties, and sorrows of living in 2022.

Life isn't perfect by any strength of the imagination. But hey, we're going back to the Moon. If we'd told you that was going to happen even 15 years ago, you'd have told us we were smoking something strong. Well, who's laughing now? Stay humble, people.

Watch the launch of the SLS live here.
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