CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV/AP) - Viewers from across our area quickly captured images and video as NASA’s SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit Friday morning, with some wondering what exactly they were seeing move through the sky.
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida just before 6 a.m. Pictures and video clips flooded in a short time later.
Some in our area were certain of what they were seeing, while others asked questions:
6:05 a.m. - “What is this?”
6:08 a.m. - “UFO ???”
6:11 a.m. - “Is this a meteor?”
6: 10 a.m. - “So what’s the big huge light ball in the sky I got it on video?”
6: 25 a.m. - “What is it?”
“That is wild,” said one viewer, who captured video at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
The astronauts from the U.S., Japan and France should reach the International Space Station early Saturday morning, following a 23-hour ride in the same Dragon capsule used by SpaceX’s debut crew last May. They’ll spend six months at the orbiting lab.
It was the first time SpaceX reused a capsule and rocket to launch astronauts for NASA, after years of proving the capability on station supply runs. The rocket was used last November on the company’s second astronaut flight.
WBTV’s Lileana Pearson tweeted video of the launch from the news station: “Spotted the launch from Florida’s space station.”
It was a stunning scene: The launch plume glowed against the dark sky, reflecting the sunlight at high altitude. “Just spectacular,” said NASA’s acting administrator Steve Jurczyk.
A masked Musk met briefly with the astronauts at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before they boarded white gull-winged Teslas from his electric car company. The astronauts’ spouses and children huddled around the cars for one last “love you” before the caravan pulled away and headed to the pad in the predawn darkness.
Despite the early hour, spectators lined surrounding roads to watch the Falcon take flight an hour before sunrise. Liftoff was delayed a day to take advantage of better weather along the East Coast in case of a launch abort and emergency splashdown.
NASA limited the number of launch guests because of COVID-19, but SpaceX’s next private passengers made the cut.
For Friday’s automated flight, SpaceX replaced some valves and thermal shielding, and installed new parachutes on the capsule, named Endeavour after NASA’s retired space shuttle. Otherwise, the spacecraft is the same vehicle that flew before.
The first-stage booster touched down on an ocean platform nine minutes later.
“It’s a great time to be here, and we’re very excited,” the European Space Agency’s Frank De Winne, an astronaut turned manager, said shortly before liftoff. The space station eventually will come to an end, he noted, but the partnership will continue amid hopes of “European astronauts one day walking on the surface of the moon.”
If you captured video of the incredible event, show us here.