Hey all! If you follow us on social media, you saw my steady stream of posts including photos and updates from our recent trip to Florida for the very exciting Planetary Society event where they launched their LightSail! And now, after playing catch-up at work and home, I'm excited to sit down and share my awesome experience. (And I apologize for any crappy photos, I had only my cell phone and most situations were less than ideal for photos!)
As many of you know, we've been a donor to The Planetary Society for nearly a decade (a portion of ALL purchases made from our Galaxy Collection gets donated to TPS every quarter) and became an official partner in 2017. In fact, our galaxy collection was born out of the idea that I wanted to do more to help the science community, especially when it comes to advocating for more space exploration and education. So hence, our jewelry collection came to life with the portion of proceeds being donated to assist in this endeavor!
So about 2 months ago, we got a call from our contact at TPS and they invited us to be one of two vendors to attend and sell at their rocket launch event in June where they'd be sending their LightSail into orbit! (Totally lost? Take a look at this video to learn more about the mission I'm talking about!) It took some finagling and planning on our part, which was admittedly quite difficult since the launch date could change at any moment (and it did! And commenced in lots of fighting with Expedia and travel insurance to get things adjusted.) But it was an amazing opportunity we just couldn't pass up! So it was decided - I would drive down with my husband Tyler, and Brittany would hold down the fort and keep the studio running since we had no idea how long we'd need to be gone for.
We got down to Cocoa Beach, FL on 6/22 after 2 days of driving and had an evening to get our bearings and map out the plan for the next few days. The next day, we headed down to meet The Planetary Society staff and get our wares set up at the first registration location! We got to meet SO many awesome members of TPS, volunteers, staff, and the other vendor Thomas Romer from The Chop Shop (which you should absolutely check out, it is awesome. And he runs the official Planetary Society store as well! Use coupon code 10YEARSGOOD and you can save 15%, too!) And here's a super obnoxious picture of the two of us before the launch! Your very professional (and VERY sweaty) Planetary Society vendors. (Photo credit: The Planetary Society)
And, BONUS - we were invited to a meet-and-greet after the first day of selling and registration at this amazing Italian restaurant down the street. Tyler and I had such a great time getting to know Thomas and other folks during this downtime, and look who was sitting at the table diagonal from us!!
That's right. Bill-Freaking-Nye the Science Guy! (Who also happens to be the CEO of The Planetary Society. And also happens to take his martinis the same way Tyler does. Who knew!) I didn't get to meet him over the course of this event, but that's okay - there's always next time.
The next day was one of the busier days as we had to set up and break down at 2 different locations. But one of the locations we got to set up in was the Astronaut Memorial Center at the Kennedy Space Center during the LightSail2 Mission Briefing! So not only did we get to sell our galaxy wares to people who flew in from around the world to participate in this event, but we got to watch the full mission briefing as well!
You can see much of what we learned at the briefing, and see more current updates on the mission, by clicking here.
While we didn't get to attend the gala that evening, we did enjoy an awesome sushi dinner and took the evening to work on some website issues that arose during the time we were down there and prep for an additional meeting the next day with The Kennedy Space Center gift shop buying team!
Now we've hit the big day!! So we headed to KSC the morning of June 24 and had a very productive meeting (fingers crossed, you may see our wares in their space shop soon enough!) Then we had the rest of the day to enjoy ourselves and explore the complex. We saw some awesome exhibits, videos, and of course hit up the space shop for our own buying pleasure. I had to make sure Brittany had some souvenirs as a thank you for staying behind, of course! And after all that in the blistering Florida summer heat, we headed out to meet Thomas for lunch to chat about business stuff and take a nap. The launch was already scheduled for 11:30pm that night, and there was a very good chance it could slip to later. So after a brief siesta, we headed back to Kennedy Space Center to load up on the buses heading to the Saturn V Center where we'd be able to view the launch!
For some reason, I had no idea what to expect. But everything about the rest of the evening BLEW. MY. MIND. My expectations, whatever they were, were far exceeded. I found out en route that we had a buffet dinner included in our tickets. Like anyone, probably, I expected dry hamburgers, packaged chips, a soft drink, and maybe a cookie. NOT WHAT HAPPENED. We had an amazingly delicious spread of pulled pork and chicken, a gorgeous mango slaw salad, scalloped potatoes, caramel blondies, plus...soft drinks AND beer and wine were included! To top it all off, it was served in this stunning room underneath the Saturn V rocket. My eyes were bugging out of my skull it was so cool!! I was like a kid in a candy shop (if candy was cool space stuff that you eat with your eyes.)
After our fill, we found out that the launch had already slipped to 2:30am with a possibility of the mission being scrubbed. But no biggie, there was plenty to do! We explored the center for a while, taking in the amazing exhibits dedicated to the Apollo program. One thing I noticed, and I know it was a sign of the times, is there were no women or people of color who were launched on those missions. I know there were folks behind the scenes, but I am grateful to see more and more front facing diversity in our space missions nowadays and hope that it continues.
Historical issues aside, it was a great exhibit! It included artifacts such as Alan Shepherd's space suit (remember our blog post about that guy?), conceptual space flight and moon walk gear, science logs, photos, personal items from the astronauts, and moon rocks from different missions!
After a while of wandering, learning, and generally being in awe of our surroundings, we made our way out to the lawn to settle into a spot for the rest of the evening and prepare for launch (which was still several hours out.) The KSC and SpaceX don't hold back! They had a DJ, light designs, a swag tent, all kinds of stuff. We found a little plot, ran into some new friends we had made, and hunkered down on that late beautiful warm evening for the best and weirdest tailgating party ever! Right behind us was a room on the second floor that housed Bill Nye, Robert Picardo (you know, the doctor from Star Trek Voyager?), several titans in STEM, and their friends.
We had a GREAT direct view of the SpaceX Heavy Falcon rocket straight across the water (if you squint, you might be able to see it!) And finally, 2:30am rolled around and the magic happened.
It was UNBELIEVABLE. Right before the rocket lifted off the pad, someone behind us in the room yelled "THANK YOU, CARL [Sagan]!" which was such a fun little moment considering all of his work and advocacy for light sailing technology. One of the coolest things was being able to really experience the difference between the speed of light and sound. You can clearly see on the video that the sound of the launch came nearly 20 seconds after the visuals. And while you probably can't see it in this video, we could SEE the sound before we heard it as the sound waves caused ripples across the water, speeding in our direction. The energy and excitement was palpable in the crowd, especially as we watched the boosters release from the rocket and LAND AGAIN. My god, technology is amazing. Also, no one ever tells you how stunning it is when the boosters release. Check out this photo that Thomas took of what we saw rippling through the sky!
Honestly, this is an experience I will never ever forget. What a privilege it was to be included in such a groundbreaking moment. I'm so grateful to The Planetary Society for inviting us, to Thomas for some awesome follow through and potentially exciting future for both of our businesses, and to all of the new friends we got to meet and spend time with! I can't wait for the next one.
GO LIGHT SAIL!!