One stellar view: History and Inspiration in the skies
Seminole State Planetarium Director Derek Demeter witnessed history in the making as Inspiration 4 launched into orbit.
Friday, September 17, 2021
Written by: Derek Demeter
Seminole State Planetarium Director Derek Demeter shares his thoughts after he witnessed history in the making as Inspiration 4 launched into orbit.
Sept. 15, 2021, will go down in history, as Inspiration 4, carrying the first all-civilian crew on board SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, launched at 8:02 p.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center. Inspiration 4 crew members include entrepreneur and commander Jared Isaacman, cancer survivor and physician’s assistant at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Hayley Arceneaux, geoscientist and pilot Sian Proctor, and aerospace engineer Chris Sembroski. The crew will spend three days in orbit (higher than the orbit of the International Space Station) conducting science experiments, talking to students while in space and simply enjoying the ride.
I had the distinct pleasure to attend the launch event at Kennedy Space Center and captured up-close and personal views of the Falcon 9 rocket. As we arrived to launch complex 39a (now operated by SpaceX), it was just surreal to stand beside the rocket that would take the first all-civilian flight in human history. I was also so excited for my friend Sian to be on board this launch. Sian and I met as part of a program called Astronomy in Chile Educators Ambassador Program (ACEAP), and since then we have worked together on a few programs during the pandemic. She is a huge inspiration to us all, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
During the afternoon I met up with my friend Brendan Bryne with 90.7 WMFE who would be partnering with me to do a livestream. Our hope was that we would be able to stream the launch from my phone using a phone adapter with one of our large telescopes at the planetarium. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Clear skies and a gentle wind, over 90% favorable weather forecast for this launch. The countdown clock slowly ticked to the T-10 minute mark, and we set up the phone and livestream. I readied my other camera to capture the rocket just as it lifted off the pad. At 8:02 p.m. EDT, we had liftoff!
What a site it was! Night launches are always the best, and this one proved to be one of the best launches I have seen. Minutes after launch, as the Falcon 9 booster rocket headed back to Earth, a large plume of gas formed as sunlight hit it from such a high altitude. No words can describe how beautiful it looked in the sky. While I have seen many Falcon 9 launches, this one was different. The name Inspiration 4 is perfect for this mission, as one day maybe in the not-so-far future people like me and you will get a chance to ride on one of these rockets and be amongst the stars. As the crew of Inspiration 4 would say, “Ad Astra [to the stars].”
Derek Demeter, director of the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida, is a 2005 honors graduate of Seminole State. Working at the planetarium as a student fueled his desire to pursue a career in the planetarium field. He continued his education at the University of Central Florida, earning a dual degree in physics (astronomy specialization) and technical education. Now he enjoys sharing his cosmic knowledge with the community and frequently serves as a media expert on all things space related. When he’s not hosting planetarium events, you can find him in the middle of nowhere with an elaborate camera setup aiming for the perfect shot of the night sky.
Located on Seminole State’s Sanford/Lake Mary Campus, the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida offers live, interactive shows and full-dome video presentations. For more information on the Buehler Planetarium and upcoming events, visit the planetarium website, like the planetarium on Facebook and follow it on Twitter and Instagram: @seminoleplanet.