In Science and Space: Space geeks flocked to the city in thousands wearing NASA T-shirts and booked every last hotel room, but it remained empty. Instead, they double parked by curbs and bridges, pitched tents prohibited in parks, and slept in running cars. A full day early, the stalwarts set out on the banks of the Indian River.
The mood for his late August night at Rotary Riverfront Park was like a tailgate before the big game. At midnight, they sat in camp chairs under the glow of the crescent moon, discussing the sounds of takeoffs, Venusian clouds, and Martian night cyclones.
Lighting above the dark ocean, the most powerful rocket ever flown, waiting to take NASA’s Artemis I mission to the moon.
With her long hair shaved to the side, Joey Vars, a serious 29-year-old, waited at her favorite spot with a launch pad peeking through the palm trees. He had traveled from St. Petersburg and was playing his usual soundtrack, the public service broadcast album The Race For Space. His best friend Michael His Stritmatter was driving the shotgun and his friend Paul His Scribner was driving behind. Now they were watching space news on YouTube while drinking Artemis Pale Ale.
Space and history are high points of his interest. Bellevue, Bel Air As his inn historian, Vars leads a tour of his 19th-century hotel. He is also a curator at the Gulfport Historical Society and has hundreds of books in his seaside home, four of his five being about space.
What’s the deal with the launch? Glory of human achievements? Take off, flight catharsis? Maybe it’s a little more mysterious. “It can get emotional,” Vars managed. For example, a sunny Scribner pulled out her phone and played her favorite video. After SpaceX’s first manned launch of early 2020, dubbed the “Bob and Doug” launch on the internet, Vars is staring into the sky. He is mute and his eyes are full of tears as he stares into the camera.