Tourists flock to see the liftoff to the Moon

Tourists flock to see liftoff to the Moon

UPDATE DAY

Watching a rocket take off for the Moon is “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” jubilant Joanne Bostandji, 45. 

< p> Having come with her husband and two children from the north of England to spend a space vacation in Florida, she details her plan of attack for D-Day: “hit the road very early to find a place” on Cocoa Beach, not far from the Kennedy Space Center.

This is where NASA's brand new mega-rocket, the most powerful in the world, is to be launched for the first time on Monday.< /p>

“I know it will take place in the distance, but I think it will still be quite incredible,” she told AFP, just before going to visit a park dedicated to the conquest of space, to wait.

Between 100,000 and 200,000 visitors are expected for the launch of this mission called Artemis 1, which will propel a vacuum capsule to the Moon in order to test it for future astronauts. For comparison, SpaceX's first manned launch in 2020 attracted 220,000 people.

“The historic nature” of Monday's flight, the first of the US program to return to the Moon, “certainly raised the interest of the public”, Meagan Happel, from the tourist office of the coast, told AFP. Space Florida.

Traffic jams are expected on the road from 4:00 a.m., for a launch scheduled for 8:33 a.m. If the take-off is postponed, for example because of the weather, more people could arrive for the next date, in the middle of the weekend.

The hotels on the coast have been full for several weeks, and parking spaces near the best viewpoints are limited.

Lucky, Sabrina Morley was able to rent an apartment not far from the beach, and will go up with his two children and a few dozen other people on a boat chartered for the occasion by a company, “Star fleet tours”.

For 95 dollars per ticket, “we will go to the ocean as close as possible to the launch area, and we will see the takeoff from the boat”, she marvels in advance.

< p> “I've never been so close to a takeoff,” says the 43-year-old woman, who grew up in Orlando, less than an hour away. As a child, she could see the space shuttles take off from her garden, like “a big orange ball” rising in the sky, and even hear the explosion as they broke the sound barrier.

She likes that NASA's Artemis program aims to land a woman on the moon for the first time (in 2025 at the earliest).

“Representation matters,” she says, watching her two-year-old daughter, who already wears an imitation astronaut helmet on her head.

For the region, the return of prestigious launches is a godsend. A family of three will spend an average of $1,300 over 4 or 5 days, depending on the tourist board.

On the main road of Merritt Island, the peninsula where the Kennedy Space Center is located, Brenda Mulberry's store, dedicated to space, is full of tourists. As soon as they enter, they come across Artemis T-shirts, printed on site (1000 copies this Saturday alone).

In recent days “we feel a real flow of people”, says the AFP the boss, who founded “Space Shirts” in 1984.

“They are impatient to see NASA take off, because the private space sector is not so motivating for people”, she advances. This rocket there, named SLS and of which she has placed a large model in front of her store, “belongs to the people, it is their rocket. Not that of SpaceX.”

Nostalgia for the Apollo program is also on everyone's mind. The last time a habitable capsule went to the Moon was in 1972.

“My family had to go to the neighbors to watch” the Apollo missions, because they didn't have television, says Joanne Bostandji, who was not yet born.

Monday's take-off will therefore be very special: “There, with luck, we'll see it for real.”