George Méliès’ 1902 film A Trip to the Moon has been watched by countless film and science fiction buffs. Besides its innovative (for the time) effects, one reason for its enduring popularity is humanity’s fascination with the idea of space travel. Today, however, we have an advantage that has nothing to do with special effects. We can watch real rockets go to space.
Most of us aren’t aware of how many launches take place each year. Besides flights to and from the International Space Station (ISS), there are satellites being sent into orbit, exploratory craft, and new technologies being tested. And because current technologies allow us to view the process to a greater extent than ever before (with more actual footage and less reliance on animation), it is even more interesting to watch than it was a generation ago.
Want to know when and where to view a space launch? There are a variety of online sites and mobile apps that can give you an entryway into the world of launch-watching. Here are some places to try:
NASA’s site offers a good amount of information about any launches involving the organization, its facilities, and the ISS. Links on the site lead to information about each launch and live coverage.
Elon Musk’s company keeps information about its activities front and center on the site. Its webcast page lets you know how long until the next launch and links to the YouTube live broadcast. You can also set a reminder.
If you live near Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or are planning to visit, you definitely want to check out its schedule of launches and events. Watching a launch on video is cool, but watching one in person is infinitely cooler. You can watch a launch from the main visitor complex or from special viewing areas (if you’re willing to pay a little more).
If you want to watch (or at least be aware of) launches outside of NASA and SpaceX’s purview, Spaceflight Now is a good resource. This site lists upcoming launches from India, China, Russia, and other space-capable nations.
Last but certainly not least, The Verge’s space page isn’t a bad place to get the latest news on the latest launches.
While watching a launch on a phone may provide a somewhat miniature view, mobile apps can keep you up to date with ongoing status reports. Even better, they can send you notifications so you know when a launch is about to happen (or if a planned launch has been pushed to a later date).
There are a number of apps out there, but these three are available for both iOS and Android:
Next Spaceflight starts with a list of upcoming launches. Select one, and you get more complete information along with a link to the launch. You can also see the status of previous launches together with videos. The app also includes news articles, a Twitter feed, and descriptions of the various vehicles.
Space Launch Now displays the status of the next launch on its front page, with a countdown clock, a description of its purpose, and a link that leads to more info and the YouTube feed. There’s also info on the ISS, on all the astronauts who have been in space, and upcoming events of interest.
Space Launch Schedule also opens on the next upcoming launch, and it includes a countdown and links to more info, the feed, and (when available) where you can view it in person.
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