GeekDad listed both Chincoteague and the Wallops NASA base on 100 More Geeky Places to Visit. This summer I enjoyed both at the same time as I stood in a yard/mosquito-infested swamp on Chincoteague and watched NASA shoot off a Black Brant rocket.
The mission wasn’t as high-profile as a shuttle flight, but it had two things going for it:
1) The plan was to test an inflatable re-entry shield.
2) It was awesome! The rumble. The roar. I had to rethink my definition of “fast” after watching that contrail cross half the sky during the time it took for my jaw to drop.
Sadly the Geeklets missed it. I had spent the morning trying to figure out when the rocket was going to go off and couldn’t. In the end it was just luck that I saw it.
What I was lacking was Internet service. NASA very kindly posts constant updates on its Website. They explain the delays — a couple of hours worth — and relay the countdown.
By stationing yourself in one of the island’s wifi zones or hanging out at the Wallops visitors center, it’s much easier to know when the launch is going to happen.
The visitor center, by the way, is small but quite interesting. In addition to the rocket-stuff on display outside, they’ve got Science on a Sphere inside. If you and your Geeklets haven’t seen one of these mind-blowing orbs that display different planets and maps, you need to track one down.