I didn't have time to make that drive today, so I stood in the sweltering heat of an Orlando noon, waiting for the lights in the sky. Orlando's conference centre runs east-west, so I made my way to the platforms on the east edge, and peered eagerly into the haze.
A couple of other folk joined me as we waited for the Delta II Heavy that was launching a gamma ray telescope for NASA from the Cape Canaveral military pads. Insects buzzed past as we waited, hoping there'd be enough of a gap in the cloud to at least see something.
The ten minute hold went on for twenty minutes, and an 11.45 lift-off moved to 12.05. We moved to the shade.
The clock ticked off the minutes, and a web browser on a phone kept us up to date.
"It should be now..."
And there it was, through a fortuitous gap in the clouds, a bright bright yellow dot rushing up the sky, burning its way to learn more about the stars. A moment later it was gone, lost in the high altitude haze of a tropical afternoon. We waited a little longer, but the rocket was lost from view, heading east out across the Atlantic, taking advantage of the Earth's spin.
I walked slowly back out of the heat and humidity, into the cool halls of the air-conditioned conference centre.
Fifty miles away it was impressive. Up close it must have been awesome, 9 solid rocket boosters firing at once. No wonder it was gone in a blink...