Witnessing the Psyche Mission Launch Morgan Kubasko

I vividly remember sitting in the State Press newsroom during a meeting with my editors when I was asked if I wanted to go to Florida to help cover the ASU-led NASA Psyche mission. It was one of those moments where your brain malfunctions, and you can’t fully process what’s been asked of you. It felt so surreal and too good to be true. I think that feeling of utter disbelief, excitement, and a slew of other emotions is exactly what River, Sophia and I all felt when we were given the opportunity to report on a rocket launch.

Nothing truly felt real until we sat down together to prepare for our trip. Sadly, seconds after we finished laying out our itinerary, we received notice that the launch had been postponed from Oct. 5 to Oct. 12. The disappointment we all felt at that moment was undeniable. Still, we picked ourselves up and were able to get our travel plans pushed a week later.

Now, one would think that a week’s notice of postponement would be stressful, and we all thought that, too. However, that was nothing compared to the three of us landing for our layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, on Oct. 11, we read an email announcing a further postponement of the launch until Oct. 13.

“We were devastated. Our travel was out of our control; suddenly, there were a couple of panicked phone calls standing between us and the launch,” science and technology editor River Graziano said.
“Even though we were stressed beyond belief, there isn't a better group they could've picked for this trip. The whole time we felt like a team, even when we were worried and sleep deprived,” science and technology reporter Sophia Ramirez said.
Luckily for us, after regrouping, laying out new plans and eating a bunch of Waffle House at midnight, we were able to get some sleep. The next day, we set out to explore the Kennedy Space Visitor Center and take advantage of our new free time.
“Going to the visitor's center ahead of time was a great reminder of all of the foundational information about launches and the space center's history,” Graziano said.

We lucked out with tickets and were able to produce some preliminary content for the launch and experience the decades of space exploration that had led us to this very moment.

“The tour brought back all the excitement that had been covered in a thick layer of travel stress. I felt the same excitement I had felt when I was told I'd get to be on the trip,” Ramirez said.
That day, a bus tour also took us out to the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Along the way, we got to see the lushness of Florida’s flora and fauna and pivotal pieces of NASA, such as crawler-transporter 2s. Stretching the size of a baseball field, CT2s are responsible for carrying rockets and other spacecraft to launch pads.
I grew up around a lot of space lovers – mostly my dad – so when I told him I’d be going to Florida, he emphasized that I needed to see the Atlantis Space Shuttle. Not only was it the third retired space shuttle I’ve seen, but it was also probably the coolest one.

Seeing all the history laid out in front of us gave us the moral boost and the energy needed to wake up the following morning at 4 a.m. We were all just hoping that the 60% go for launch would become 100%.

After we got our credentials – which we unanimously agreed would be framed on our walls forever – we were driven to the press site. The fog was dense in the darkness and gave an almost cinematic feeling as we drove.

We got to the press site earlier than most other media which gave us some much-needed time to settle in. The press site itself was a lot bigger than any of us expected. A few large buildings were behind a giant field surrounded by marsh and trees.

“The actual launch was a complete sensory experience. The light hits you first, and then the sound a moment later. The shake of the sonic waves only happens once the sound is loud enough, and the rocket's fire gets so bright that your eyes are watering,” Graziano said.
“We were a good couple miles away from the rocket, so even though I knew it was going incredibly fast, from our distance it looked like a slow movement straight into the sky,” Ramirez said.
A fellow photographer who was set up next to us said he had been to at least a hundred rocket launches. He told us that, if we could, to take a moment to look at the rocket with our eyes and not through the camera.

Once the rocket had ascended quite a bit into the sky, I took a brief moment from behind the camera to take it all in. And I can genuinely say that seeing the glow fade into the clouds was the closest thing to magic I’ve ever seen.

After the sonic booms rang through the air and everyone clapped and cheered, we headed back inside to join the chaos of other reporters rushing to get their content out. River and Sophia jumped into action with incredible determination and steadiness. Their drive emitted an air of professionalism that kept up with everyone else around us.

We were probably the only journalists under 30 years old in that media room, and I’d like to think we held our own like pros.

Roughly an hour after liftoff, the launch was confirmed.

“This trip was the greatest opportunity I've ever had. I'm so happy that I got to see such an important launch, and I'm very proud of the article River and I wrote,” Ramirez said.

With it being Florida, our shoes and socks were soaked from walking through the press site, making our walk through TSA at the Orlando Airport even more fun. But even with that and the uncertainty that met us at almost every turn, I could not have imagined a better team to take this journey with.