I think I'm ready now.
Everyone is asking me, "What was it like?" It's hard to explain. I feel like with tUR-1 and tUR-2 that I was very conscious that we were sending up our payload. I felt connected to the physical box in a way that made the experience easier to grasp. Partially that is because of how home grown the experience was, especially for tUR-2 which was a total labor of love, but partially because we knew in a few hours it would fall to Earth and we would try to find it.
HASP was a much more disconnected sensation for me and not just because I was gliding by on two hours of sleep.
I've watched balloon inflations, and finally a launch, online but I was not prepared for the sight of it on the horizon and I had to focus incredibly hard to not get lost in the awe of it and remember that we had made a small piece of it.
Two big moments happen during every launch that make the crowd gasp.
1. When the balloon is let up to the end of the tether.
2. When the balloon is released.
I was impressed by how smoothly both of these negotiations were conducted compared to the frantic release of our tinier, and much less deadly, tUR-1 payload. I also enjoyed how everyone clapped because it reminded me of everyone applauding the solar eclipse. (I definitely spent much more time staring into the sun at launch than I did for the eclipse.)
After launch we spent the rest of the day watching GOAT cruising along above the Earth and this was even harder to comprehend.
It doesn't look real, especially on this monitor. Like, it doesn't even look like a very good fake.
Our friends and family were sending screenshots in to Facebook all day and it was wonderful. I hope that Dan D. will post some of his collection. The whole time I was trying to really absorb the fact that we built that thing in my geology lab. We built it.
People ask, and I don't do a very good job of explaining, what is so fantastic about this experience. What makes it worth it? Was it worth all of the missed social events, sleepless nights, deadlines, headaches, travel forms, and bags of trail mix? Was it worth all of that to go to this desolate place and launch a metal shoebox into the sky for a day?
I think so.