NASA Wallops Flight Facility is poised to send the Antares rocket off to the International Space Station (ISS) from the Eastern Shore of Virginia on Saturday, and NASA has released a handy list of the best vantage points to watch the launch in the Bay region.
As shown at right, you can bundle up and watch this wintertime launch from Chincoteague Island, Assateague Island National Seashore, Ocean City, Md., the Delaware beaches, and Virginia Beach.
Set for this Saturday, Feb. 19 at 12:39 p.m. EST (weather-dependent), this will be the first launch of supplies bound for the ISS since NASA announced the space station will be retired in 2030, crashing into an uninhabited area of the Pacific Ocean called Point Nemo. It’s the point in the Pacific that is farthest from the nearest land, about 1,450 nautical miles away from anything.
ISS will be replaced by three free-flying space stations developed by commercial companies Blue Origin, Nanoracks LLC, and Northrop Grumman, based in Dulles, Virginia. By passing the mission to private platforms, NASA believes it will save $1.3 billion.
In the meantime, Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket will continue to make commercial resupply missions. This one, Northrop Grumman’s 17th mission to deliver NASA science investigations, supplies, and equipment. Among the fascinating research that will be conducted with the materials carried by Antares is an investigation on skin aging in microgravity that may help protect aging skins, testing on a lithium-ion secondary battery that works under extreme temperatures in a vacuum, and a study looking at a drug’s impact on prostate and breast cancer cells.
Antares will launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A on Wallops Island. If the sky is clear, launch fans will be able to watch from Robert Reed Park on Main Street or Beach Road spanning the area between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands. The Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Atlantic beaches also provide good viewing locations.
The NASA Visitor Center at Wallops Island will not be open for the launch. If you can’t stomach standing out in the cold to watch, there are numerous ways to see the launch from afar. You can register to attend this launch virtually.
-Meg Walburn Viviano