At least 100,000 expected for NASA lunar launch – Orlando Sentinel
MELBOURNE (AP) — Hotels sold out. An excitement that seems to grow day by day. The potential for hundreds of thousands of visitors, support staff and more.
These are just some of the factors considered in preparations for Artemis I, the first launch of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, scheduled for August 29. launching from the Space Coast for years – bringing with it a level of excitement to match.
In total, Space Coast officials expect at least 100,000 visitors for the rocket’s first window, which includes opportunities on August 29, September 2 and September 5 (Labor Day). Currently, T-0 on August 29 is set at 8:33 a.m. ET. Pad 39B will be the host.
The rocket is part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to put humans back on the moon within this decade. It begins with the Artemis I uncrewed mission and its plan to take an Orion capsule on a four to six week trip to the moon and back. Artemis II will do the same with the astronauts, then Artemis III will put two astronauts on the surface after 2024.
The Space Coast is no stranger to launch day crowds. During the space shuttle era that unfolded in 2011, half a million or more visitors sometimes flooded the area, scooping up hotel rooms and packing up local businesses.
Since then, the crowds have been smaller, but still large. Even at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, thousands still flocked to Brevard County to see the launches.
Some of the recent SpaceX Crew Dragon launches, which take astronauts to the International Space Station from KSC, have attracted between 100,000 and 250,000 visitors, according to Peter Cranis, executive director of the Space Coast Office of Tourism. It wouldn’t be a stretch to expect over 100,000 for Artemis I.
“I think crewed launches and these Artemis launches are going to be of equal interest to people,” Cranis said. “I would definitely expect over 100,000, if not more, to come for this.”
In June, Cranis said, Brevard County had 10,734 hotel rooms and 4,500 vacation rental units. Each unit can obviously accommodate more than one person, but those numbers are unlikely to be affected by spectators coming from, say, Orlando to see the launch without staying overnight.
Speaking about the higher launch rate, Cranis said Artemis is also supporting his office’s efforts to commercialize the Space Coast. KSC and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station hosted 32 launches this year, a rate not seen since the 1960s.
“Our marketing line is that we are the only beach that also serves as a launch pad and now that’s a message we can get out because the frequency is so high,” he said. “Being known for this is something that makes us special among our peers who obviously have beaches to promote, but no space program.”
A simple glance at hotel room listings shows rapidly dwindling supply among those that have not been sold.
The space-themed Courtyard by Marriott Titusville – Kennedy Space Center is one of the newest hotels in the area. Completed this year and open to the public in April, it offers views of the pads of KSC and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station and even has a specially designed rooftop “Space Bar” for viewing the launch.
All rooms in the Courtyard, as well as the Space Bar, are sold out for Artemis I.
“More and more people are discovering the hotel since it opened in April, with a steady increase in room reservations and attendance at the rooftop Space Bar,” said Glen White, director of corporate communications for Delaware. North. The company franchised the Courtyard brand of hotels and financed the project.
“We also anticipate people booking rooms and visiting the Space Bar to experience the excitement of seeing Artemis on the launch pad in the days leading up to launch,” White said.
Delaware North’s main Space Coast operation is the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, which expects to sell out its Artemis daytime offerings.
“We are expecting capacity crowds at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex for the upcoming Artemis launch,” said Therrin Protze, visitor complex chief operating officer. “(The Visitor Complex) will offer special Artemis launch viewing packages that will include some of the closest public viewing opportunities with distinctive experiences like live commentary from space experts and access to certain exhibits and attractions.”
The launch of Artemis I is tied to the complex’s recently opened “Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex” exhibit, which focuses on the future of spaceflight. Inside the new exhibit is a scale model of the SLS rocket, a flying Orion capsule similar to that of Artemis I, and other items like a ceiling-mounted SpaceX Falcon Heavy booster.
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Crowds gather to view the launch as onlookers aren’t the only visitors expected on the Space Coast. Hundreds of members of the media from around the world have also signed up to cover the liftoff.
KSC’s public affairs team has confirmed that at least 700 media have signed up so far, a figure that dwarfs typical launches and is closer to the crowds seen during the Space Shuttle program. Heather Scott, spokeswoman for the Space Force’s Space Launch Delta 45, said the military branch will also be involved in media management.
“The growing sense of energy and excitement that has gradually developed around Kennedy and among our staff over the past year is tangible,” said Mike Bolger, director of ground exploration systems at KSC. “A sense of anticipation grows every day as we get closer to the launch of this incredible rocket and spacecraft.”
From an employee perspective, launch day passes that can be used to bring personal vehicles — and family and friends, in most cases — are highly sought after.
And it’s not just about watching on launch day: employees who don’t work directly on Artemis have been handling non-critical items for those who are, even going so far as to buy their lunch to save time.
“Our teams are focused on the laser to guide SLS and Orion through the final stages before its maiden flight around the moon, but the excitement across the center is palpable,” said KSC Director Janet Petro. “You can see it in people’s faces, you can hear it in their voices, and when we all stand together with our eyes skyward on launch day, I don’t think there will be a feeling like that. in the world. “
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