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Student reports - 2022 - Artemis 1

Nocturnal sunrise

16.11.22, Arthur Sommer

After returning to the grandstand, we followed the events with utmost attention. Sakurako scoured Twitter for news regarding the start time. The window opened at 1:04, but the SLS was getting shy, as someone in our stands said, and needed another moment.

Team back at the tribune. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

At T -00.10.00 (10 min) the countdown stood still for what felt like an eternity. Now all departments had to give their green light. While everyone held their breath in anticipation, a handful of people from the Banana Creek crowd were interviewed. In the meantime, the first "go" messages were heard. Now it became clear, history was going to be made today. It was getting more and more exciting, gradually the emotions and excitement were rising inside me.

Finally the time had come. After some delay, the 10 minute countdown continued and all of Banana Creek cheered. Those 10 minutes flew by. At -6 minutes, most of the spectators stand up. I look over at Sakurako and she looks over at me. I think we could see each other's surprise and indeed a slight confusion, but at least as much anticipation.

Arthur and the crowd standing up. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

By now, everyone was pulling their smartphones out of their pockets. I did likewise to the crowd and prepared the stabilized GoPro. Now I was already tingling almost all over. While I still didn't fully realize what we were about to experience, my gaze alternated between the bright scoreboard and the dim horizon.

The board now showed the view of a camera pointed at the RS-25 engines of the SLS, while the commentators, from the moment of the first sparks, began to count down the last 10 seconds ever louder and more excitedly. We joined in loudly from our grandstand. 3...2...1... The Solid Rocket boosters ignited at 1:48 and gave full thrust. All you could see on the board was fire. On the horizon, as if in one blow, in the dead of night, the sun rose. So brightly shone the trail of fire, which grew longer and longer as the rocket rapidly took off. At the same moment, huge clouds of smoke shot out left and right. While I was trying to capture as many reactions from our group as possible with the GoPro, I first realized how badly my hands were shaking. With moist eyes, I followed the cone of light, which by now was already high in the sky.

SLS lift-off at 1.48 am from launchpad 39B. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

Since we were standing just 5 km from launchpad 39B, it took just 15 seconds to hear that monstrous masterpiece. First, however, we saw the previously smooth water of the pond in front of us roughen and start to dance. Next, a soft drum-like sound reached me. At the same time, I felt a gentle physical recoil against me. This heralded the orchestra of thrusters. I didn't know what I was expecting, but definitely not that. A damn loud rattling and clattering, a drumming and beating, a crashing and thundering. Just a musical masterpiece. It was such a deep sound that spread throughout my entire body and made me feel my heart as I had never felt it before. At that moment, a single tear of joy actually flowed down my left cheek. As we stood there staring up at the illuminated sky, I wanted to cheer or somehow otherwise scream the joy out of me, but I felt paralyzed. Not a peep made it out of my open mouth. I was literally speechless.

SLS lighting up the nightsky and crowd at Banana Creek. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

We stood there for another good 10 minutes, watching the Solid Rocket Boosters separate from the rest of the rocket and the nighttime sun steadily get smaller and whiter until it finally disappeared behind a thick layer of gray clouds and flew even farther away from us.

So that was it, THE event. An emotional journey to the moon. This is exactly what we had been preparing for for so long.

Cosma collected the cameras she had carefully set up earlier with me, while Ralf captured the first reactions of the other team members. The expectations of all of us were more than exceeded and we were overjoyed that it finally worked out today. With the words of our American grandstand comrades "Third time's the charm" we boarded our bus and left Banana Creek around 2:20 am.

 Group photo after successful launch. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

In the bus, the overhead light was on again, but this time it didn't bother me, as fatigue overcame me out of nowhere. The red tail lights of the vehicles in front of us blurred hypnotically-circularly with the otherwise pitch-black surroundings, until my eyes finally fell shut. When I woke up, we were already in the large parking lot where our journey began. From here, unfortunately, our team already parted ways again. Sakurako drove with Valencia to Titusville and from there on her own to Daytona. Of course we couldn't let her go without a proper goodbye. An hour later we arrived at the Motel 6.

Team saying goodbye to Sakurako. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

Even though we didn't make it to bed until around 4am, I agreed to meet Cosma again for sunrise. This time a normal one. After waking her up several times, we walked to the beach and admired yet another beautiful sunrise. Today the clouds caught the first rays of the sun as well. We see something so similar every day, but still very special. Now that we challenged our sleep rhythm one more time, it was really time to go to sleep.

I didn't wake up again until noon, made myself a little something for breakfast, wrote a tiny bit on the report, and slept even more. Around 4:30pm, Valeria informed us that she would be flying to California later today. Her Uber driver was also on his way. Thereupon we prepared a quick farewell dinner with cake. Half an hour later, we were already saying goodbye to Valeria. By then there were only four of us left.

At the end of the day, we continued to write down our experiences and let this more than special day pass in review one more time.


Moon within reach

15.11.2022, Arthur Sommer

Cosma and Arthur infront of the SLS. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

So today is the day. The big day dawned with the first normal sunrise on the foggy horizon. Morning dew could be seen in many places. Car windows, plants and the beach were moist, almost as if it had rained before. Although there were clouds between us and the sun again, which is gradually becoming a habit, nevertheless such a sunrise remains magical.

Cosma and Valeria were still deeply asleep, so I went with Ralf and Jesco to the Waffle House. Today was going to be a special day, so we had a special breakfast. When we came back, I already started writing my report. After a while the two late sleepers woke up and around 1pm we found ourselves at the Beachside Hotel. There we met the nice lady named Lou, with whom we got along so well last time. We stayed there for just under four hours writing the long report on Embry-Riddle University.

When Cosma and I arrived in the hotel room shortly after 5 pm, things started to get serious. Now we were just focused on getting started. After the preparations, such as packing all the camera equipment and putting on the team outfits, Ralf held a briefing. He explained how everything was going to work. I thought now I was ready for what was coming up today. However, at this point I couldn't guess in the slightest how we would feel afterwards.

The sun had been setting for a while when we sat down in the SUV. Paradoxically, a relaxing, classical-like tune was playing on the radio, accompanying us on our way to the event of the decade. This song was followed by a Christmas carol. At least until Ralf finally changed the station. On the roadsides we could still see some damage left by storm Nicole. Because of that there were less people and campers who would have watched the start from everywhere. I thought that was kind of a shame, because it made the evening feel less meaningful. At least until now.

Far too early, we arrived at a huge parking lot with two little NASA flags at the entrance. There was hardly another car here until now. Maybe 20 to 30, which is virtually nothing. Since we arrived a good hour before the meeting time, we now even had room to maneuver for an improvised meal and presence on social media. 7:30pm, more and more guests gradually drifted in, including Sakurako, who was picking up Valencia from Titusville.

 Valeria and Arthur waiting in the parking lot. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

While we were waiting, empty buses left here twice, which seemed quite strange to us. But after a while other buses came, among them some with the Artemis logo or the SLS printed on them. With those, we immediately took photos and joined the growing queue. Three quarters of an hour later, we left. The lights on the bus were dim, but they hurt my slightly tired eyes a little. Another three quarters of an hour passed before we finally arrived at our old familiar seats. I don't know why, but we were drawn back to the last grandstand, to the second-to-last rows of benches. It almost felt like home. At the same moment, we could again see a fire at the base of the tower. This time even bigger than before. In contrast, people were unconcerned and rather delighted to see this spectacle once again.

The team arriving at our spot on the tribune. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

21.42 the first bad news came through the loudspeakers: There is another leak of liquid hydrogen. With that the evening was almost over for me. I thought that NASA had learned from an investigation at the VAB as well as the previous abort reasons and had prepared better. There were apparently bolts loose that needed to be fixed. On our display, we could follow the "Red Crew" that was sent out and assigned to do this. There is a problem that can only be solved with outside labor. I wasn't sure if that was good or bad news.

 Teamphoto in front of the Countdown board. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

10:43 p.m. We were all shocked. In addition to a normal announcement, another person's cut-off statement was heard, "...probably have to roll back to the VAB...". I can clearly remember Cosma's head turning over to me and her calling out: What?! We waited tensely for an ensuing answer, which did not come. For the time being, an uncomfortable silence prevailed.

In order not to fall asleep on the benches, we followed Sakurako, Valeria and Valencia into the Saturn V Center. We looked at many things. From holograms, displays of old spacesuits and lunar samples to photos of us on a lunar rover. At midnight we received the news from Ralf that all leaks had been successfully sealed. We cheered about this and slowly made our way back to the grandstand. We could probably see a launch today after all.

Student reports - 2022 - Artemis 1

Portraits of my team members

Yvonne and Ralf Heckel
Yvonne und Ralf Heckel

This is an anniversary year for my parents. 20 years ago they started to build up today's International Space Education Institute together with Prof. Dr. Jesco vn Puttkamer. That's why there is also a 20 on the mission logo. At that time, the goal was to recruit new engineers for the upcoming moon and Mars landings and to get them on their way. This trip is a promise of the professor who led the International Space Station ISS for more than 10 years and who already died 10 years ago as the longest serving NASA employee. But my parents also made a promise. With long-term dedication, they both stuck to it and overcame many hurdles to get here. Now here we are, surrounded by young NASA space engineers of our own and old, for the first launch back to the moon. It's a story like the book I'm reading right now: "Apollo 8 - Departure into Space, by Jesco von Puttkamer". Here in America, you can only feel the high respect my parents receive. They get asked a lot.

Tara and Jesco



My two siblings are always with me when I go on a big trip. Tara is 13 and visits the Quartiersschule an der Ihmelstraße in Leipzig (secondary school). Jesco is 8 and attends the 3rd grade of the 74th elementary school in Leipzig. Both write reports just like everyone else and have assignments, just different ones according to their age. Like me, both have grown up with these programs since childhood and are experienced in them. Tara is the best in her class and Jesco is the best CAD designer and 3D printer of his age that everyone here knows. My parents always take us with them because we grow from it and also give a reason for some extra space for important equipment in the luggage. I'm very grateful that both of them always manage to do this with their own power.

Cosma Heckel
Cosma Heckel

I am Cosma Heckel, 15 years old and I was born in Leipzig (Germany). Meanwhile I am 1,70 m and surpass a few of my team members. My hair is light brown, my eyes are blue and my body is relatively sporty. Self, I would describe myself as a bright personality, always looking for new knowledge. I am open to anything and everything, which is why I am building my own team for the HERC competition along with Arthur Sommer. My siblings Tara (13) and Jesco (8) Heckel are also on it. They both write reports about what they experience.

Arthur Sommer
Arthur Sommer

Arthur Sommer is from Leipzig and has been with us since July 2022. He is about 2 m tall with brown hair and chestnut eyes. He plays basketball in the club and trains in the gym, and recently also on the NASA rover. Arthur is a nice person who is helpful and cares about the well-being of his team. He works on projects with determination, focus and perseverance. A good quality is also that he asks questions if he does not understand something.

Alina Santander
Alina Santander

Alina is 24 years old, comes from Bolivia, has a Russian mother and can speak 4 languages fluently (Spanish, German, English Russian). She first came to us in Leipzig in 2015, completed a 2-month summer camp and celebrated her 16th birthday with us. She participated 3 times in the Roverchallenge, 2 times with us, once with her own team and was invited on very many TV shows. Alina is very popular in Bolivia. She has been studying mechatronics in New York since we won the world championship together in 2019.

Valeria Zafra
Valeria Zafra

Valeria Zafra Vasquez is 24 years old, comes from Mexico City and is now smaller than me. NASA engineers think we're in the same class. But she has a degree in engineering from UNAQ in Querataro and works as an engineer on the interior design of the cyber truck at Tesla. She interned at the International Space Education Institute in Leipzig in 2020, instructing us in Solid-Works and helping convert the institute to virtual instruction during Covid.

Team Mexico:

David Suares
David Suares

Team Leader for Team Mexico and Professor of Engineering at the Cuernavaca Campus of Tec Monterrey in Mexico. He has been friends with my father Ralf Heckel for a long time and both work closely together in terms of student exchange. The NASA rover team of Tec Monterrey Campus Cuernavaca already received the Jesco von Puttkamer International Team Award of the College Division 2 times. This is also the reason for the invitation for this team to the rocket launch by the International Space Education Institute and NASA Headquarters.

Abraham Vega
Abraham Vega

Abraham Vega is about 1,75m tall, has black shoulder-length hair and wears glasses. He is a mechatronics engineering student at Tec de Monterrey, an analog astronaut at the Lunares Scientific Research Station, a scientist and researcher, and will soon publish his first article. He completed a 3-month internship last year at the International Space Education Institute in Leipzig, Germany.

Ian Doring Romo
Ian Doring Romo

Ian Doring is about 1,75m tall and has dark brown hair. He wears glasses and has a nice smile. He cares about the well-being of every team member and is studying mechatronics at the Tecnológico de Monterrey, Cuernavaca campus. He is 19 years old and has participated in the NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge for two years. Last year, he was the project leader of the team that won the Ingenuity Award and first place overall in the virtual challenge without personal participation.

Jorge Emiliano Turner Escalante
Jorge Emiliano Turner Escalante

Jorge Emiliano Turner Escalante studies computer science at the Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus in Cuernavaca. He is 20 years old about 1,80m tall and has brown curly hair. He is a bit shy but a very nice personality. He helps the team with imaginative ideas and usually thinks two steps ahead. Called by friends: Turner, he participated in the virtual NASA Human Exploration Rover Challenge 2022, taking first place overall with Iktan Roving, but without having a rover in the course. He is part of the TecXotic underwater robotics team in the MATE ROV competition and is currently a junior mentor on the FIRST Robotics Competition high school team Lebotics.

Sebastián Cruz
Sebastián Cruz

Sebastián Cruz is a 22-year-old engineering student in mechatronics at the Monterrey Technological Institute on the Cuernavaca campus. He is about 1,80m tall has heavily curled, reddish hair and always a smile on his face. Cruz (his nickname) always has a joke to spare and is, however, a very good engineer. Thus, with Iktan Roving as STEM leader, he won several HERC awards, including second place in 2021 on the Virtual Challenge, first place in 2022, the STEM Engagement and Ingenuity Award.

Daniela Espinosa
Daniela Espinosa is a 20-year-old student in her third semester of the Mechatronics program at the Tec de Monterrey Campus in Cuernavaca. She is about 1,7m tall and has brown wavy hair. Dani (her nickname) is a nice young girl who always takes care of her team. She is a former member of the high school robotics competition Lebotics Team and a current member of Iktan Roving as a pilot and team leader. Unfortunately, she is shy and doesn't like to be photographed.

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Student reports - 2022 - Artemis 1


The beginning of a new era

16.11.2022, Cosma Heckel
It felt like déjà vu as the crowds poured out of the buses and into the tribunes. Just like the last times, we sat down on the backmost grandstand, with a good view of the screen and an even better one of the SLS. The aluminum bench seats were damp and covered with small dew drops, the air warm and humid. The countdown board showed -03.07.38 and quickly the glances change over to the spotlighted SLS, not more than 5 km away from us. This sight was already familiar and everyone felt it was unreal to see this rocket take off in just under 3 hours.

 SLS on Pad 39B during night. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

Arthur and I prepare and install the 2 Go Pros and a 360° camera. These will record the flight back to the Moon. It still feels unreal.

T- 02.48.00 We follow Valeria, Sakurako and Valencia into the Saturn 5 Center to take in as much of the location as possible. Thus, we look at everything from historical spacesuits, to holograms, to a walkthrough of the Apollo. Sakurako, Valeria and I found especially the holograms the most interesting. Valencia took a particular liking to the center, watching each exhibit 3 times. I recognized myself in her.

After sitting on a model of the Apollo moon rover, we go back to the grandstand. At that moment we get the news that the "RED crew" was able to fix the loose bolt and the hydrogen fueling problems were fixed. In a word, everything was on GO! Everyone jumped up, let out a cheer and could hardly believe it. Because from that moment on, it was clear that the path was clear for the launch and any doubts evaporated.

Livestream from NASA observing actions of the „RED Crew“. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

T- 01.48.00 The time of waiting dawned. On our way back to the grandstand, we were surprised to meet Lynn Dotson. We met her 2 months ago at the Artemis Launch check-in and were happy to see her again. She was acting as a supervisor today, escorting American school groups from Texas and California. We joyfully took our seats in the stands, watching the NASA live stream and closely monitoring every Twitter post from NASA. The closer the launch got, the more restless the spectators became.

T- 00.58.00 The countdown stops at -10 minutes at 1:04, as all systems are now checked and the 2-hour launch window opens. Tension is in the air and increases with each time "We are ready to Go" is heard more and more often from the loudspeakers. Most eyes are fixed on the large screen to the right of our grandstand, as the time is filled with interviews and explaining the SLS flight path. We, on the other hand, shoot a few good night photos with the help of long time exposure.

Nightpicture of the whole Team infront of the SLS rocket. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

T- 00.39.00 The view of the SLS is clear, any clouds in the sky gone and the air still humid. Any surface colder than its surroundings is fogged up, as are the camera lenses on the Go-Pros. Valeria and I keep our viewers updated on social media. The smallest members of our team are getting tired and resting until the countdown starts.

Teamphoto on tribune at Banana Creek. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

T- 00.12.00 On the big screen is now switched live to the Mission Control Center. Everything is silent and everyone is looking on as if mesmerized. Charlie Blackwell-Thompson (Flight Officer) asks all Flight Controllers for their "Go". Without a hesitation, every controller says yes. A cheer goes through the crowd, which almost drowns out her following words:

"On behalf of all the men and women across all great nations who worked to bring this hardware all together, to make this day possible. And for the Artemis generation, this is for you: At this time I give you a go to resent the Count and launch ARTEMIS 1."

Arms are thrown up and cheers go up as the red scoreboard to the left of our stands counts down from 10 in the seconds that follow.

Jesco beeing excited; SLS in the background. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

T- 06.00 min - Everyone is preparing for the upcoming event. People start to stand up.

T- 01.00 min - From now on I am very focused, I go to the cameras that are at the foot of the grandstand and turn them on. A shiver runs down my spine, all the way to my fingertips.

T- 30 sec - More and more cell phones are reaching up, filming the small, bright-beamed SLS on the horizon. My stomach tingles, my pulse rises.

T- 10 sec - The crowd starts counting down. People are cheering.

T- 9 sec - I look around. See lots of faces, including those of our team members.

T- 8 sec - I turn back to the SLS and take quick glances at the countdown board and the main screen.

T- 7 sec - I feel my breath.

T- 6 sec - My heartbeat begins to race.

T- 5 sec - Sparks fly and the RS-25 main engines ignite.

T- 4 sec - The crowd counts down together.

T- 3 sec - There is a clatter. The first serial photographs begin.

T- 2 sec - Thousands of people around the world keep their eyes on the moon rocket. A bright ball of light forms on the horizon.

T- 1 sec - We fly back to the moon.

 SLS rocket launching at 1.48 am from pad 39B. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

The colossus slowly takes off. The light of the fire is so bright that it almost blinds me, but I don't look away. To the side, huge, white and dense clouds of smoke shoot out. They reflect the light of the fire and glow yellow-golden. The fireball becomes brighter and brighter. It illuminates the whole sky and shines green-blue. It is like day. A new day. The sunrise of a new era, that of the moon.

My breath is taken away, my eyes grow wide and I find myself in a bubble, refusing to realize what I just saw. I felt so close to the launch, to the rocket. Close to my skin. My eyes filled with tears, the wave of emotion that overtook everyone was even more unstoppable than at the SpaceX launch.

The SLS rose up the night sky, getting smaller and smaller. It was followed by the smoke trail, still brightly lit. In it danced the red-orange glowing ends of the flames, of the gigantic jet of fire.

 SLS high up in the sky with long smoke trail. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

T+ 2.12 min - The solid boosters burned out and were discarded. It was amazing how clearly this separation could be observed in the sky. Two small points of light, almost as large as stars in the firmament, each moved off to the left and right of the main engine.

T+ 3.30 - The Jettison Orion Launch Abort System being dropped. I stood in front of it back in 2015 at Kennedy Space Center. You can now see the shiny silver Orion capsule on the livestream.

T+ 8.20 min - The main engine is now also burned out and separated. The SLS is already half way over the Atlantic Ocean and can only be seen as a small bright dot. The trajectory from our point of view goes vertically upwards and in the further course slightly to the right. The rocket moved away and becomes slower and slower as seen from our point of view. Finally it reached the maximum of its trajectory and seems to move back to earth. This optical illusion is created by the curvature of the earth and the refraction of the light in the terrestrial atmosphere.

> T+ 8.20 min - Still captivated by this breathtaking sight I look at the night sky. The small luminous point moves slowly past the moon further around the earth. The thick clouds of smoke are slowly receding and the fire at launch site 39B, where the SLS was about 10 minutes ago, is now extinguished. The sky returns to its original color, dark blue to black. The crowds slowly stream from the stands back to the buses. Arthur and I pack our cameras and join the others together with Sakurako, Valeria, Valencia, Jesco and Ralf. Driving in the direction of the parking lot, fatigue overtakes me, as it does all the others in our team. Half-asleep, my subconscious is reviewing the start. It is magical to be able to remember this launch forever. I will never forget the image of the rocket taking off. It is far too unique.

Arriving at the parking lot, we drive the SUV back to Motel 6. Sakurako takes Valencia to Titusville, and then makes his own way to Daytona.

 The team saying their goodbyes to Sakurako. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)
That sunrise was special, but I think few realize the things humanity is capable of today and will be tomorrow.


11/15/2022, Cosma Heckel

Today is the day before the launch. The launch of the SLS, the largest and heaviest rocket in the world. And the way most people understand its importance: The launch of the moon rocket.

Space Launch System rocket at Pad 39B. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

hours. Thus the morning of the 15.11.2022 starts quite late, because not before 9 o'clock I stand on my feet. With my cell phone in one hand and a toothbrush in the other, I finish writing my report of yesterday. 5 min later I edit previous bits of text with the help of my laptop bent over the hotel table. Crap. The Wi-Fi is not sufficient. I go outside the door of the room, directly under the Wi-Fi amplifier and hope that I can now continue our social media work. With success, but the already heavy warm tropical air and the bright rays of the sun do not make this work particularly easy while standing. Therefore, Valeria and I decide to go to the nearby Beachside Hotel. So in the air-conditioned lobby, we continued our work.

The hours pass. And 13 o'clock in the afternoon quickly became evening. Arthur had joined us in the meantime to also use the Wi-Fi and posted his reports.

Around 5 pm we go back to Motel 6 to prepare for our departure. Together with Ralf and Jesco we packed all cameras and needed utensils. Everyone puts on the mission shirt, I slip into my space suit.

At 6pm Valeria also arrives and gets ready. Shortly before departure: I find myself in a circle, because we all stand in the middle of the big hotel room. Ralf explains the procedure and the things we have to pay attention to. The reality of the upcoming start is getting closer and closer, but for me it was not yet tangible during this period. Then it starts.

We drive in the SUV to the meeting place for the VIP guests. The parking lot is huge and was finished only a few days ago. The air is humid and the parking lot is brightly lit. So far there are only a few cars on it, but it fills up as time goes by. With a bockwurst and a can of soda in hand, Valeria, Arthur, Jesco and I stand at the car tailgate and take our supper. Not much later Sakurako Kuba and Valencia arrive as well and so the team was complete. We left the cars, picked up all the bags and headed to the bus station. The line in front of us was already long but after only 10 minutes, it stretched to the end of the parking lot. Large buses drove in and wonderingly empty out again. So after half an hour we also sat in one and started our journey to the viewpoint. Banana Creek, Cape Canaveral.

 The team infront of a NASA bus. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)

It's jolting, the overhead light is blinding, and the darkening of the windows makes it hard to see anything outside. Valeria sits next to me at the window of the Artemis tour bus. All together we are on our way to Banana Creek with 50 other people. Passing the VAB, which unfortunately is barely visible, we arrived at 9:30 pm.

Teamphoto in front of the Countdown board. (copyright: International Space Education Institute)




The SpaceX Launch and 52 new satellites in orbit

04.09.2022, Cosma Heckel

Last night Sakurako Kuba and I found out that on 04.09. a Falcon 9, SpaceX rocket is scheduled to launch on pad 40. Today. So the disappointment of the Artemis 1 launch abort was half gone as we prepared for this SpaceX launch.

Cosma Heckel

Since the launch is scheduled to take place 10:09 a.m. EDT, we have the day plenty of time to prepare. So we already made our way to our spectator stand right next to State Highway 401 to avoid any spontaneous incidents. From here it is about 12 miles (about 19 km) to launch site 40.

On the way back we also recorded some video messages at the city entrance of Cape Canaveral. Afterwards we went back to the hotel where Ian, Abraham and Turner were already waiting for us. We got ready, put on our team shirts, checked and loaded all cameras again and watched for any changes regarding the launch.
Everything on go. Take Three.

There were still more than 8 hours left, of which we used 2 to get some souvenirs for our Mexican friends, because today is unfortunately their last day at Cape Canaveral. Afterwards they will fly back to Mexico. We enjoyed the last few hours before takeoff, as team partners became friends over a few days.

The KSC announced a pre-postponement of the start to 8:00 p.m., but as it turned out later, this was a false announcement. Of course, we didn't know this until a certain point, so we headed to the grandstand around 18:00. We set up all the cameras and took our seats already.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

It was 19:45 ETC when we finally got the news that it would keep Falcon 9 on the ground until 10:04. Some already had doubts that this launch would also be postponed and that "the bad luck" would hit us once again, but we remained optimistic.

Slowly the sun was setting and the moon was now the brightest spot in the sky. It became quieter and the places of the filled up. Since this start observation position is publicly accessible, many people came and sat down together with camping chair in the green grass.


Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Suddenly a group of dolphins appeared in the water in front of us. Alternately, their dorsal fins lifted out of the water. Jesco, my little brother, was about to say that there were sharks in the water in front of us when I befor I could calm him down. Because they were dolphins.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

T-60 minutes
The cameras are checked once again and assigned, so everyone has min. one small task.

Cosma Heckel

T-30 minutes
The tension slowly rises. It is hard to believe that the little line on the horizon will take off right away. Or will it at all? That was a little hard to believe.

T-10 minutes
I took one last test shot with the 360° Graf camera. Everything worked. Now everyone turned on their countdown and sat with wobbly knees on the motor stage benches.

Cosma Heckel

T-3 minutes
I positioned myself, with a GoPro in hand pointed at us, ready to turn on the 360° degree camera.

Cosma Heckel

T-1 minute
Cameras are on and eyes on pad 40. Everything else is dark. The only thing to be heard are the crickets chirping in the tall grass at the edge of the bank and the Indian River.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

T-5 seconds
The first stage thrusters fire and a bright dot of light appears on the horizon. It grows larger and brighter. A sense of wonder races through the crowd.

The rocket, small from here, slowly rises and with it, the ball of light. The boosters' engines are now at 100% power.

Cosma Heckel

The rocket gets faster and faster. The flame now forms an oval shape. With increasing altitude, the Falcon 9 tilts slightly to the right, thus the trajectory behaves similar to the quadratic function f(x) = 4 √x.
This moment feels unreal. After two aborted launch attempts already, the SLS does not launch, but the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket does.

Cosma Heckel

T-47 seconds
By now, sound has reached us over 12 miles (about 19 km) away. The ground vibrated slightly and the launch sounded like the blazing of a gas flame, only hundreds of times stronger, deeper and louder. Nevertheless, the sound of the firing engines sounded somewhat muffled by the distance. Similar to calling across snow-covered fields. The sound sequences we heard were already 47 seconds old and time-shifted with what we saw.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

From the moment the rocket left the ground, I was emotionally in a bubble. Isolated from any action in my physical presence, I was completely fixated on the Falcon 9. The blaze of its flaming engines, the acceleration of its speed, and the empty launch pad created an imprinted feeling. A feeling of spirit, hope, uncertainty, inquisitiveness, dreams and reality. The possibilities that are made possible by such launches are incredible. And only when you are there yourself and see these constructions of the future, planned, polished and developed over years, soar, do you become aware of these possibilities.
To be honest, I think it was only days after the launch that I deciphered and realized what we were experiencing and how I felt about it.

Yet this rocket is not even a lunar rocket. Yet, on this mission, it is sending Group 4-20 into Earth orbit with 52 Starlink satellites. These allow better internet reception and denser networking of satellites. Among them is Spaceflight's Sherpa-LTC satellite, which is used to deliver satellites and hosted payloads to low Earth orbit (LEO) and polar orbit (SSO). The 1st stage used for this purpose is reusable and landed safely on the SpaceX drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean after 8:30 min without any complications.

Thus, the section of the launch that can be viewed with one's own eye was already over.

Cosma Heckel

T- >8:30
Only if you had good eyes or a telescope, you could still see the small fireball in the sky. The flame had become quite narrow and long and it was much fainter. It was already leaving the atmosphere.

In the meantime, there was a stir in the spectator stands. Everyone was packing up and getting ready to go home, which surprised me personally. But actually SpaceX launches at Cape Canaveral are not rare anymore. The next launch of the Falcon 9 is already in 6 days on September 11 at 3:20 GMT+2.

After we were able to take our eyes off the small point of light from the rocket, we looked at each other with our mouths open. The disbelief and fascination could be seen in everyone's eyes. A thousand images raced through my mind.

Slowly, we woke up from this amazement. I turned off the 360° camera and walked over to Ralf and Jesco with the Go Pro in my hand, who also took care of turning off the cameras. Jesco now also saw the world with wide eyes. Ralf immediately looked at the long-time shots, which looked really spectacular.


Cosma Heckel

Equal with the also present watchers, we packed up everything, because it was already 10:30 in the evening. That went everything rather fast, because after good 10 min we were again at the Indian River. Although at a different place than before, but the observation of the bioluminescence phenomenon was however also for Ian, Turner and Abraham a spectacular experience. However, it was not unmatched by the Falcon 9 launch.

Shortly after arriving at the hotel, the three unfortunately had to leave. After requesting an Uber, they were in the car 2 min later on their way to Orlando International Airport. After writing our reports, we also went home to our beds.



We do this things not because they’re easy, but because they are hard.

03.09.2022, Cosma Heckel

It was 5 o'clock as everyone in the apartment got up. All things were packed up and put into small backpacks. Finally, I got up too, with one foot still barely asleep. I pulled on my Mission shirt and long pants, slipped on my shoes, and grabbed the small backpack. By 5:30 we were already in the van, headed for Titusville Regional Airport.
However, we stopped at a Publics (supermarket in the US) parking lot and picked up Sakurako Kuba (currently training astronaut). She is taking over Alina's spot.

6 o'clock we arrived at the regional airport Titusville. The car line was much shorter and flowed much more smoothly. There were as few cars in the parking lot as there were people on the bus later. After we parked, we gathered and walked to the buses.

There was fog over the solar fields. The sun had already risen, but hidden behind the cloud cover.

7 AM the bus stopped at Banana Creek in Cape Canaveral, disembarked we found ourselves in our seats. The unobstructed view of the SLS was possible again. And of course it was worth it.

So Valeria and I took the opportunity to create a video update for social media (Instagram: rovernauts).
Right after, Arthur and I recorded videos for our schools.

Cosma Heckel

The sun rose higher and with it, so did the temperatures. Yvonne and I attended the 8-form Apollo Walkthrough. This describes all the Apollo missions and the astronauts one by one.
In the middle of the first circle the mission logo of the whole Apollo mission is shown in form of carpet. In the second circle there is a monument of Apollo 11 with the significant quote "The Eagle has Landed". It was opening up to see everything at a glance. We went back to the grandstand since the Saturn V Center doesn't open until 9:15. It was 8:30.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

So everyone sat there dripping with sweat in the shade. Some dared to sit in the bleachers with an umbrella in 36 °C and full sun. I can imagine that this is hard to bear, especially because from the same location was located. The humidity was heavy in the hot air, the sun was burning. Jesco had already fallen asleep in the shade when the Saturn V Center opened. Immediately people streamed into the air-conditioned hall, where quite incidentally the 2nd and 3rd original Saturn V stage was located.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

After half an hour Ralf, Tara, Arthur and I also visited the center.
It's amazing how big the first moon rocket is, especially when you stand under it. The individual workings of every single on-board computer or item are well thought out. Nothing is careless. This gives a feeling of security.

Cosma Heckel

The exhibit including the lunar module and moon rover are very interesting. We use the same principle for building the wheels as was used on the moon 50 years ago.

The highlight was the launch of the Apollo 8 mission. A movie presentation with a view of the mission control at that time, 4D effects and damn good sound. After taking some team photos, also with Sakurako and Valeria, we went back to the grandstand.

It was already around 10:30 when problems with the refueling were announced again. Thus, a leak in the hydrogen tank was added. The mood was already sinking as hopes for the start continued to waver.


Cosma Heckel

Just as Valeria and I were about to post an update on social media (11:17), it was announced. "The Launch is scrubbed" - The launch has been scrubbed.

The moment was so ironic that Valeria and I laughed. The engineers had already announced a good 15 minutes before the abort that they were advising that the launch be scrubbed. Now came only the confirmation from Flight Director, who made the decision with the respect of all the facts.

So it was over. This was the last launch window in the time of our stay. But I am not a bit sad. That's okay. Because as Bill Nelson said during the course of this day, "Two scrubs is a lot less than a failure,"
One has to keep in mind that this launch is a test flight and aborts are much more common. For example, a Space Shuttle launch was postponed 5 times until the launch had 99% success on the 6th attempt.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

We drove back to the hotel, with a little stop at Publics (supermarket chain), because that's where Sakurako parked her car. Valeria and I jumped right in and so three power-womans in a race car just followed Ralf. During the car ride I learned some Japanese, while Valeria could improve her German.

Back at the hotel we checked any Artemis news from NASA: There were again some problems with the hydrogen refueling due to leaks in the tank. The rocket will now be brought back to the VAN (roll-in), then defueled.

Unfortunately, Valeria had to say goodbye as she is going back to Orlando today. We will unfortunately not see her again very soon, so we said our thankful goodbyes.

A little surprise was the arrival of the Japanese astronaut Astro Akihiko Hoshide to our hotel and the head of Jaxa (Japanese space agency). We had a short and nice chat before they both unfortunately had to move on.

The day ended with a delicious dinner at Rusty's. Together with the Mexican part of our team we enjoyed fish'n'chips a cup of Coke and the view of a SpaceX booster at Port Canaveral and the associated drone ship.

The highlight was a final excursion to the Indian River, where bioluminescent algae are currently in high season. These algae glow blue in the dark when you move the water. I.e. every movement you make in the water glows blue. It's magical. Especially when small fish that have been shooed away shoot frantically through the water, you can see their route quite clearly. Even though we experienced it yesterday, it was just as cool for us as it was for Sakurako.

Back at the hotel we said goodbye to Sakurako, who is now going to Orlando.


Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

This was also the end of this eventful day.




Alligators, bioluminescence and sea turtles

31.08.- 02.09.2022, Cosma Heckel

The last three days we enjoyed the Floridian weather, the hotel pool and the surroundings. The highlights of these days I will tell you now, because there is actually a lot to tell.


Today we mainly sat in the much too air-conditioned lobby and wrote our reports. Valeria continued preparing her Spotify podcast "Lift off" which will be released soon. She talks about women's path to success, how to build a healthy career and what Valeria has personally learned along the way to get to her success (tips and tricks against bad habits). After all, she is now a mechatronics engineer at Tesla and is working on the Cyber Truck!

So we took turns lying by the pool or sitting in the lobby and continuing to work, because by changing your work environment you have much more inspiration and motivation. I also started reading the book Apollo 8 Aufbruch zum Mond by Jesco von Puttkamer. In it he describes the launch and the whole Apollo 8 mission in very good words. I also like the book because it is technology oriented. Even if I don't know a few words or terms, I can now look them up and get an idea of what they mean.


Cosma Heckel

It was already 14:00 when Valeria and I grabbed the idea to go all together to a Mexican restaurant called "Rock de Guac". It's a 2 min walk from our hotel, which feels a little longer when you're walking in the blazing sun, but it's not that bad.
Once there, Yvonne, Jesco, Alina, Valeria, Arthur and I ate either tacos or a "taco wrap". For me it was three delicious tacos.

Afterwards we had a look at the surroundings, Jesco was very interested in the Dino-Store. I guess he got that from his big sister :)

So the day ended with a few more pool visits and Apollo 8.


Today was a very nice day, because wild turtles in the Atlantic Ocean you don't see every one.

It started with a visit to the booth around 11am. The sun was beating down from the bright blue sky and the street was swarming with heat. As you crossed the wooden walkway to the hot sand, you passed through a green tunnel built of plants. Crickets were chirping in the warm shade, it was perforated by sun rays.

Ralf, Yvonne, Tara, Jesco and Arthur were already in the water when I followed. The water was almost up to my waist when all of a sudden I saw a large barnacle covered tank. Only 10 cm in front of me was a sea turtle. I was very surprised, but remained calm, took the opportunity and looked at her a little closer.

Her shell was about 30 cm x 40 cm and covered with white barnacles. A blue plastic bag was looped around her neck, with a longer remnant leaking to the right side. I felt sorry for her. So I acted and grabbed her by the side of the shell to restrain her and remove the plastic bag. I have experience handling turtles, but unfortunately not yet with such large ones. When she noticed me, she made a leap forward, slipped out of my hands and swam towards deep water. I did not hold her strong enough, which still depresses me. Still, I hope someone else can help her.

After a couple of hours we made our way back to the hotel, where I immediately grabbed the Apollo 8 book and continued reading. Time flew by until it was already getting darker.

We drove to the Cocoa Beach pier to sweeten this summer evening with a nice dinner. The view was endless. Only quantities of water and sky were visible when looking east. To the west, the sun hung lower bit by bit and the sky once again went through many color spectrums until the sun set. We enjoyed Mojo Pork Nachos and the beginning of evening over the water. The temperatures dropped and the sky turned darker and darker blue until the stars were visible.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

However, we continued on. After that dinner, we drove to the Indian River right next to the Cocoa Beach Causeway and observed a spectacular phenomenon: as soon as you stepped into the shady, warm water, it began to glow bright blue. The more you moved, the brighter the bioluminescence glowed.

Marine animals such as some fish, squid, tiny crustaceans and algae produce bioluminescence to either confuse predators, attract prey or even attract potential mates. In this case, they intrigued me insanely.

Small fish, which were startled by my footsteps in the knee-high water, left blue-luminescent thread trails in the water, like lightning bolts in the sky. Every now and then we stepped on something sharp spread out on the soft sandy bottom. They were crown conches (shells) which lived in the warm water.

After this evening we went back to the hotel.


The third day of waiting has arrived and today we visit well-known places.

Today's stop: the Golf n Gator Park. We have been here a few times before. At that time I was allowed to look at a tank segment of an alligator. These are usually bone hard and bullet proof, of course only adult animals.
There are many different reptiles in this park, but mainly alligators. We served lunch to these along with the attendants.
Even though these alligators are a little smaller than you see in movies, they can bite quite a bit. That was interesting to see.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Right next to the Gator Park is a GoCar track which works like the video game Mario Cart. You race against your friends and during the course you can bring in different gadgets and use them for yourself. At first Valeria was leading far in front, but after we all caused a big collision, I led the race to the end. It was definitely fun for everyone.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

So we left Golf n Gator after a stop at the gift store and headed back to the hotel. After a short time, our Mexican team members arrived there as well. Together we completed our reports and reconciled them with each other. Afterwards, they drove on to get to know Cocoa Beach better together.

I spent the rest of the day refining the reports and reading from the Apollo 8 book.

In the evening around 11pm we went to the beach as it was peak turtle laying season. The empty beach is shallow and long. A line of washed up seaweed stretches along it. Every now and then a few crabs (about 8 inches wide) stalk out of the water. Salty humid sea air blows towards the land and the sky is occasionally covered by a few clouds, nevertheless the stars can be seen. But unfortunately there are no turtles. This time we were apparently not so lucky.

So this day came to an end, but with full anticipation for tomorrow's leek of the Artemis 1 mission.





The Kennedy Space Center and a SpaceX rocket-booster

30.08.2022, Cosma Heckel

A day has passed since the Artemis mission was supposed to have launched. Unfortunately it didn't, as we all know, but until the next launch window our program continues. After our own day of rest, reporting, writing and longed-for sleep, it is already 8 a.m. when we have breakfast and pack our things for the Kennedy Space Center. Because today we will visit the Visitor Complex of the KSC.
It's 9 a.m. as we stand at the entrance to Kennedy Space Center. Marked by a big blue NASA logo ball. From here we began the visit. First stop: Atlantis Center. In front of this building is a replica of the Space Shuttle, which has just been repainted. We waited for our Mexican team, which arrived belatedly by car. When we were complete, we were off.

Cosma Heckel

After entering, one is forwarded into a history journey around the space shuttle. The development is shown from the first idea, through failed test attempts and a lot of work until the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis. The retrospective and the future are reflected in two successive video presentations. At the end of the second presentation, the screen opens and the real space shuttle Atlantis appears. It is always a breathtaking effect that leaves all viewers amazed.
Still transfixed by the sight of Atlantis, we began taking team photos. In lineup team wise and portrait. Right next to the space shuttle Atlantis is an exact replica of Hubble (Hubble Space Telescope-Astronomical Observatory). It was very interesting to stand next to it once, because now you have a sense of scale.

Cosma Heckel

On through the Atlantis Center, down a slide that simulates the landing approach of the space shuttle. Continue to the tribute to the astronauts who lost their lives during these launch and landing attempts. In this walk-through personal items of the astronauts are exhibited, as well as debris of the accidents of Challenger (28.01.1986) and Columbia (01.02.2003).
Ralf Heckel gave a touching speech about those we lost in these events and also about those who literally dedicated their lives to space travel. It is sad to talk about this side of spaceflight, but it is because of them that the dangers were taken more seriously and more work was done on the safety systems. I have great respect, awe and inspiration for and through these individuals.

Cosma Heckel

After more photos, we continued on to the Center for Space Education. There we met astronaut Charles Camarda. "Charlie" flew with Discovery to the ISS from 07/26/2005 to 08/09/2005. This was the first flight after the Columbia accident and is therefore also known as "Return to Flight".

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

After a nice chat, filled with new contacts, David (one of the managers of this building) allowed us to have a look at a mock lunar surface, which is used as a test terrain course for robots. Thus, annually selected colleges and high schools compete against each other with the mission of constructing functional robots. I found this very interesting, especially since a robot from the last race was still there.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

The next stop was the Space Mirror Memorial. This memorial consists of a large black mirror that permanently aligns with the sun. Each name of an injured Space Shuttle member is embossed on one of the black stone tablets. Thus, the sunlight is reflected and shines during the day. It is huge once you stand in front of it.

Cosma Heckel

 Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

After a few team photos it was already 13:30 when we finally entered the air-conditioned space restaurant. Outside it had become unbearably warm. The Mexican team continued to look around while we ate our first meal of the day. After a little over an hour, everyone was back for the last photos at the Astronaut Mirror Memorial, Step. Power. Launch and at the Rocketgarden.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Now everyone was able to take private tours. Abraham, Arthur, Ian, Turner, Dani, Cruz and I walked together to the Gateway. This is the newest building at KSC and contains exhibits of the most current missions and those of the future. We were able to marvel at a real SpaceX rocket as well as a replica of the Orion capsule. Personally, I was impressed by the complexity of the machines, physical and digital. General exhibition was very interesting and modern.

Finally, we went as a group to the show "Cosmic Wonders". This is a 4D journey through space and time, showing the most amazing cosmic wonders (discovered so far). In the process, passengers sit down the lined up seats. These move forward to the screen until one is free and hanging in the middle of a white sphere. This is the screen which is shaped like an inner hemisphere. Then the unique performance begins with wind, water and movement of the seats. Very well done!
The next stop was actually the "Astronaut Training Experience", but this attraction was very crowded. Therefore, we went on to the Atlantis Museum to have another good look at the exhibit. We took a closer look at the main engine of the space shuttle. It is not quite as big as the F-1 engine of the Saturn 5, but it is 2.39 meters in diameter. All 5 engines together add up to 37 million horsepower. That is enormous.

We continued past the Canada Arm and under the shuttle. There we met several Artemis engineers. Like David, who was working on the load distribution of the Orion capsule, as well as the software. We continued to look around and I must say that the exhibit is very interesting. Fun Fact: the large tires of the space shuttle were made by Michelin.
I would have liked to stay longer, but unfortunately we didn't have enough time. Because it was already 4 pm. So we used the last hour, ate an astronaut ice cream and went to the Heros & Legends building. In this building the history of space travel is told from the beginning. From Jule Verne to Albert Einstein to Werner von Braun. From the Jupiter rocket to the Saturn V. Of course, the video presentation was also about those who flew into space or tried it for the first time. This was divided into two shows, the second of which was also performed in 4D. It was very fascinating to see that just with side effects like wind from different directions, you can spiritually take the human mind to completely different dimensions. We then visited the associated museum, which lists every American astronaut and describes the heroes of space travel. It is surprising how many people have been in space. There are now more than 620 people in total! But compared to the world population, very few.
Unfortunately, it was already 5:00 p.m., so we slowly walked to the exit. There everyone gathered and after a last group photo. Afterwards we went back to the hotel. But not for long, because afterwards we went to Rusty's.

Rusty's is a seafood restaurant located in Port Canaveral. There is also a SpaceX base in this port, as all SpaceX boosters which land at sea (land on the ship drones) are brought to land through this port. We were lucky and a large Falcon 9 SpaceX booster was standing in the middle of the harbor. At the "top" was a small auxiliary scaffold used to raise the previously lying booster.

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

Cosma Heckel

We took a table on the terrace, right next to the water. Valeria, Alina, Arthur my family and I enjoyed the evening with live music, delicious seafood dish and a unique view of a SpaceX booster. It felt almost ironic to have a serene view of a booster at such an "everyday" dinner. I like it;)
With a shrimp wrap in our stomachs, we slowly drove back to the hotel. Thereby we Valeria, Alina, Tara and I organized a nice evening and let it slowly fade away.





The most beautiful sunrise of my life

8/29/2022, Cosma Heckel

Split between two minibuses, we headed towards Space-Coast Regional Airport Titusville. It was 0:30 in the morning, when we joined the long line of cars that led up to the parking lot. After half an hour, we found ourselves at the front of the line and were directed to our parking spot. It was unbelievable how many cars were in this area alone, with it only being a small fraction of the people, who want to see the launch.

Cosma Heckel

The feeling I had when I got out of the car is hard to describe. It felt like being asleep, yet wide awake at the same time. It was surreal like walking in a dream.

We gathered next to the cars, packed provisions and cameras, and walked together to the bus. Powerful spotlights illuminated the parking lot, which was incidentally on a lawn inside the airport runways. You could see the parked planes from here.

There were a total of 16 of us, so we were complete. Tickets were checked before we boarded the big tour buses. When you stood in front of them, it felt like you were standing in front of a wall. They were huge, but nothing compared to the moon rocket.


Cosma Heckel

Once the air-conditioned bus was full, we headed out. It was still pitch black; the interior lights were off. I sat next to the Mexican team. After 15 min our bus leader announced our arrival, showed us the toilet routes and the many mobile bistros with coffee and cake.

Then we went to the VIP stand: we walked through the gap between the constructions, which were about 3 m wide. Many people were in front of me, attracted by the incredible view of the SLS rocket. Nobody looked anywhere else than at the rocket. People moved along dreamily and stopped at every corner. When I finally stood at the head of the crowd, a view opened up, like a veil, the effect of which cannot be described. Only 3 miles (about 5 km) away, 98 meters high and 2600 tons heavy was the colossus, which should take off in less than 6 hours. Madness!


The rocket was illuminated on all sides by bright cones of light that poked straight through the clouds. Due to the high humidity, you could see their trajectory that covered the rocket like a transparent veil. But precisely because of this, it glowed like a huge star. Brightly illuminated on the horizon.



It was pleasantly warm; the place of the grandstand was illuminated and the benches were wet. We spread out on two rows of seats and had another look around. It was still unbelievable. After 30 minutes, everyone had settled in. The seats slowly filled up and so did the internal storage of the cell phones.

2:48: David passed 2 binoculars around, with which we tried taking better photos. Although this worked, Ralf was much better off with his camera equipment. From now on we had to wait. Everything was on Go. Thus 30min...1h....2h...3h.. passed.

At 5:15 the sky was still black and the rocket was brightly illuminated. All at once, a small red flickering fire was visible on the left side of the tower. Excitement swept through the crowd. After a glance through the telescope, it was more clearly visible. Doubts quickly arose, it looked like something was out of control. After 10 min, calm returned. It was explained that it was only the combustion of superfluous hydrogen gas. The flare was at a safe distance from the launch pad just behind the rocket. The perspective fooled us.



Now Ian, Turner and I headed to the Saturn V Center to shoot videos for social media and a German TV station. This worked out well. We stood at the base of the first Saturn V lunar rocket, which stood lengthwise on stilts. Just under 54 years ago, a rocket like this took off toward the moon for the first time. This one was for Apollo 19 and the 2nd and 3rd stages are here now. What few of the visitors know is that the big 3rd stage is a dummy. The original is in front of the Infinity Center at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. I've sat on it before.

Cosma Heckel

Lots of people darted around among the exhibits as we admired the 5 huge thrusters. They were F-1 engines, 3.7 meters in diameter, the largest in the world up to this day, and huge!

6:45 a.m.: Suddenly, blue sky and pink-red-orange clouds were reflected on the glass wall of the Saturn V Center. The sun was rising. We quickly finished our filming and ran outside. We caught a first glimpse through the palm trees and coastal plants, but when we were exposed to the full sight at the grandstand, a wave of emotion overtook me.


Cosma Heckel

Artemis1 Rakete

This breathtaking sight of the SLS rocket, the most powerful moon rocket on this planet, whose silhouette, together with the cable tower (from the book: Apollo 8, Jesco von Puttkamer) and the three lightning rod towers, surrounded by gold shining sunbeams, was visible, was unique. The fireball, which we call sun in our solar system, rose slowly and diagonally next to the rocket. The sky went through many color spectrums. From red-pink to red-orange further to orange-yellow in a long period of time. The great cloud towers, which were certainly higher than 600 meters above the ground, because of the safety distances, looked more magnificent than ever in their mighty, almost majestic appearance. Touched by the first rays of the day's sun, they had a golden rim. All this spectacle was reflected in the waters of Banana Creek. Magical.


Now everyone was even more excited than before. The big screen was now playing the live broadcast, which I'm sure thousands of people were also watching. We took advantage of the daylight to conduct interviews about everyone's thoughts and emotions. Ian guided the camera and interviewed everyone.

Interview mit Tara

T-60min: the tension grew bigger.

T-40min: from here on, the countdown stopped. Now all the checks were done again. Everything seemed to be on go.

But when nothing had happened for half an hour, the speaker from Mission Control spoke to us over the loudspeakers. The RS-25 engines installed in the first stage have been flushed with some frozen liquid fuel. This is necessary to cool them down to the desired temperature. However, the hydrogen vent on the fuel system had failed and the engine had not been cooled. They simply waited for a longer period of time in the hope that the cooling would be sufficient after all. But to no avail.

20 min. later: The flight director (Charlie Blackwell-Thompson) had to cancel the takeoff for this reason: "We have a SCUB". A wave of sighing went through the crowd. You could feel the disappointment. Everyone got up and headed to their buses, just as announced through the loudspeakers. We too were told to get back to the car quickly.




There it was. Fueled, checked and practically ready to go, yet still on the ground. As we now know, even until 9/3/2022.

It was sad to see the rocket still on launch pad 39B during the bus ride. I would have loved to have witnessed its launch today. But it would have been dangerous. Components of the engine could have burst because of thermal stresses, like a cold cup you pour too hot tea into. It is not imaginable, what kind of explosion that would cause. That's why was a good thing.

After arriving at Titusville Airport, we went back to our cars, got in and drove straight to the Mexican team's vacation home. We loaded our dropped off luggage and said a temporary goodbye to our Mexican team members.



Next stop: the Beachside Hotel in Cocoa Beach.

It was 11 am in the morning and check-in hadn´t opened yet. We enjoyed the hotel pool and caught some sleep since we had been awake for over 30 hours by now. Valeria will be staying with us.

Finally, the door to our room opened. Until then, I had hardly felt any tiredness, but when I lay down and closed my eyes, I fell asleep along with my mission shirt. I woke up after more than 18 hours.




Launch Briefing

28.8.2022, Cosma Heckel

Today was the last day before the launch of the Artemis I mission, so everything was done that we didn't manage to do until now.

We got up at 8am today, packed all our stuff and left our vacation home at around 10am. Since the prices for hotels rise to unbelievable heights during the Artemis launch-window, we didn't have any accommodation for the launch-night. Nevertheless, to store our luggage safely, we drove to the vacation home of our team from Mexico, which is located far inland.


Arriving at the apartment (11am), the three from Mexico who were sleeping there had only just gotten up, being tired from all the extra preparation and travel. We stored the suitcases and waited for David (professor at TEC Monterrey), his students and then our members Alina Santander and Valeria Zafra. We filled the time with team building tasks and writing our reports.

Ken, a teacher from Washington City Schools and our friend, arrived around 1pm, while Alina joined us an hour later. Thus, Ken, Alina, Arthur and I drove together to the Titusville Mall to check the three of them in for the launch. To get there, we rode in Ken's Tesla Model 3, which is already 5 years old, but drives like a new car due to regular updates. This way, the aging of the driving performance is bypassed. I think that is a very sustainable solution.

When we arrived at the check-in at around 14:30, Ken and Alina had got their tickets without any problems, but Arthur had a little problem. However, this cleared up over the course of the day.

Our plan for tonight was to have a seafood dinner, after all our team members had arrived, to toast the launch and receive the briefing at the same time.

So, on the way back, we made a quick stop at Shiloh's Seafood Bar to reserve a few tables. Unfortunately, it was not possible to do so. We returned to Abraham's AIRBNB at around 4:00 pm, the same time as David and his students.

Finally, we were complete and could really get to know each other for the first time. It was very cool to finally meet everyone in person now, as we did many things together during this short evening. Since there was no room at Shiloh´s, pizza came for everyone at around 18:00. To be honest, this was a good replacement as it still allowed us to sit together and catch up.


After Valeria, the last missing team member, had arrived, the launch briefing could begin.
During this briefing, we discussed the procedures, the facts and the events that would be coming up in less than 12 hours. Ralf gave us a review of how all of this was able to be made possible and how much effort and accomplishment it took from everyone. With this launch, we are honoring all those who gave their lives to spaceflight. No matter on which continent or which country, they have accomplished great things and are an inspiration to many others.

In the briefing, we also assigned tasks to all of the team members. These included cameramen, interviewers, reporters, social media managers and photographers. These activities were each briefly rehearsed and everyone's priorities were set.

Lastly, Ralf presented the products of the last 2 years. During Corona, of the people present here, Valeria and Abraham were in Germany. Together we reconstructed and sprayed the Starship, modified the Mini Buggy with 3D parts and celebrated 50 years of Apollo 11.

To top it off, David and his students brought our merch. They were white t-shirts , printed with our mission logo. Dressed, we were not only a team, but also looked like one.


It was 9pm when the briefing was over. At 12 we planned to set off. That’s why we used the time until then to rest and get some sleep.

I went out to lie down on the terrace. It was raining. With a blanket, I made myself comfortable on the sofa, despite the almost 30 degrees. The rain was merely falling on the roof and I thought about all the things that were about to change. Back to the moon! It is like on the eve of the 21st of December 1968. I thought about many things, but again and again I came to the conclusion: many doors were going to open, doors that we should keep open, in contrast to the first return from the moon. The thousands of thoughts in my head were slowly drowned out by the sound of the rain and I fell asleep.


At 12, everyone was woken up. Long pants and shirts were put on. Everyone got into the car, packed with provisions. Exactly as discussed. Nobody said anything, because they themselves could not believe what was to come after getting out of the car. The engine started, the door closed, and we drove off.



The calm before the start

27.8.2022, Cosma Heckel

It was already half past 9 when I woke up, went to the kitchen and made myself some breakfast. Everyone had gotten up shortly before.

At around 2pm, 3 Mexican students arrived, who were also part of our group. So, we used the time until then to complete reports or do more paperwork. Jesco, Tara and Yvonne went to the beach and enjoyed the warm water. Arthur, Ralf and I continued to prepare.

When we got the news that they were now at the Titusville Mall at 1 pm, we got right into the car. During the 45 minute drive, Abraham, Ian and Turner checked in at the NASA-Admission.

The reunion with Abraham made all of us very happy, but likewise it was great to get to meet Ian and Turner.

Since the three hadn´t seen everything that we had seen before, we went on a little sightseeing tour. We visited the huge Blue Origin complex, the Kennedy Space Center, the SLS rocket that will fly to the moon the day after tomorrow, and the Redstone rocket.

Afterwards, we drove to our apartment, unloaded the suitcases and had a great reunion, because now also Yvonne, Tara and Jesco could welcome Abraham. Right after that we went to the beach two blocks away, so that the three could properly arrive for the first time. It was cloudy, but still tropically warm. The salt water of the Atlantic Ocean had a temperature of at least 30 degrees, so we took our time. After a few rounds of rugby and an attempt at surfing on a skimbord, we headed back home.

We now took the three to their apartment with a quick stop at Walmart to buy them mobile hotspot. After setting up the hotspot and visiting the apartment, Yvonne, Arthur and I drove back to our location.

Before that, some nice people on the beach had told us that there should be algae in the water tonight, which would glow blue. Unfortunately, this was not the case :( Let's see if it works tomorrow.

With that, the day had come to an end. I am already curious about tomorrow:)




Welcome to Cocoa Beach!

26.08.2022, Cosma Heckel

Someone shakes me gently. I turn on my other side and bury myself in the pillow. "Get up," it sounds softly. I sighed, lifted my head and opened my eyes, but squeezed them right shut again. It was bright. The sunlight was shining into our room, making it glow brightly. I got up and changed my clothes.

It was already 9:30 a.m. Everyone was in the living room, with homemade hot dogs in their hands. That was our breakfast for today, so I took one too. Then we got into the car and drove off. Today is the first day in Coca Beach, so we will have a look at the area after Corona and see what all has changed.


But first we drove to our future hotel, where we will sleep after the start. It has a beautiful outdoor area with pool, bar and beach. On the tour, we discovered a small mural depicting the launch of a Soyuz. This was very surprising, but also nice to see, as Korolyov also developed it.


We continued to Pier 1, which is located directly on Cocoa Beach. The sun was shining strongly, the air was humid. Hard to bear for a long time. The beach is large and grey-white, the sea winds warm and humid. Seagulls fly by now and then, looking for a few crabs.

Yvonne, Tara, Arthur, Jesco and I walked onto the pier and had a quick look around, as we had to go straight on. However, we will have more time to look at the beach later in the day.  Past dollar shops, Fish&Chips restaurants, Tesla Chargers, mangrove forests and swamps, we drove straight to Titusville along the highway. It's funny how much space there is here. Everything is built and laid out on a large scale.

After about 20 min we passed the Blue Origin base, on to the Kennedy Space Center. The turn-off is marked by a big KSC logo, but it's all the more recognizable because of the ticket and vehicle control, which looks like a crawler transporter (transports the rockets to the launch site).cAfter a few group photos we drove on and stopped at the Atlantis Museum. There was a replica of the Redstone rocket. Its 83 feet high, weighs 33 tons and flies on alcohol & liquid oxygen.  It flew the first US manned/ballistic space mission with Alan Shepard. In the process, she released the first US satellite, Explorer 1, into orbit. Thus, Alan Shepard is the American Gagarin. As we drove by, we spotted a space shop with a homemade SLS rocket. It was amazingly well built. After a short visit to the shop, we moved on.

Kennedy Space Center

We went to the Titusville Mall. In this mall you can find the registration for the Artemis launch. We were warmly welcomed and directed to Lynn Dotson and her colleague. Lynn works at NASA STEM-Stars and also has various tasks during the launch preparations. She also knows the head of HERC, which is a very cool coincidence. We will see her again at Banana Creek, our viewing point during the launch.

We checked in and got all the necessary information and materials regarding the launch. Among them: a badge, several magazines talking about the SLS rocket, stickers and patches + a small Orion capsule. Plus, access cards for the Kennedy Space Centre complex and more.   So, we had everything we needed. Now nothing could go wrong, except for the things we aren´t in control of.

Our next stop was Shiloh's bar. This grill restaurant provides a great view of the launch site 39b and the VAB. There we enjoyed a delicious and late lunch, as it was already 4pm. In between it rained heavily and thundered very loudly.

The last stop of the day was Walmart. This is a typical supermarket in the USA. There we bought supplies for the next days and especially for the launch.

This day ended with a visit to the beach in 30 degree water temperature, which was very pleasant by the way. I am already looking forward to tomorrow!




The first trip in 2 years
25.08.2022, Cosma Heckel

It was 1:20 o´clock when we arrived at the Berlin airport (BER).

We quickly got our suitcases from the car. Tara, Arthur, Jesco and I made sure they were secured while Ralf parked the car where it could stay for the next two weeks. The night air was pleasantly fresh and the night brightly lit. At first, I was astonished by the airport. Especially because I had not seen one for 2 years. There were still 3 hours until check-in. Tara, Arthur, Jesco and I used this time to explore the newly opened airport. I was surprised by the modernity of the general layout, especially because the construction of the airport had been delayed very often.

Jesco was able to get some sleep, which was unfortunately no longer possible after 4:30, because the check-in opened. The big suitcases were given to the airline, while we went to the security check together with our hand luggage. There, everything went well and only 10 min later we sat in a café and ate some breakfast. I chose a chocolate croissant. Since Ralf had taken a plane earlier, we had to say a quick goodbye.

We still had an hour, during which we slowly made our way to our gate. I used this time window to record the first part of the video blog.

At 8, boarding finally began. It felt like déjà vu as we walked along the plane's jet bridge. I can't even count many times I've done this before anymore. The pilot and co-pilot stood politely at the cockpit greeting each passenger. The pilot of our first flight introduced himself as Matthias, he was a very nice man. Following down the long corridor, Tara, Jesco and I made our way to row 16, with Arthur and Yvonne sitting directly behind us.


After 30 minutes, the plane began to move and just as it positioned itself to the flight path, it was silent. The turbines started and the plane slowly began to move. The engines became louder and louder, and the plane began to vibrate. At that moment Jesco turned to me, looked at me and said: "Here we go!“ Seconds later after reaching the required speed we slowly took off. A glow spread across Jesco's face, and he wasn't the only one. So, the AIRBUS A320NEO JET had taken off and was flying towards Munich. The flight lasted less than 55 minutes. However, we were still able to use it to get some sleep. Next stop: Munich

After Arriving in Munich, we first went through passport control. This also went very fast.
However, it got a little trickier after that, because Munich airport is much larger than the one in Berlin. Nevertheless, we found our gate, H14, without any problems. Now it was time to wait once again. We used the time to get some sleep, use the restrooms and to look around.
Eventually, our flight documents were checked again, until finally 11:55 the boarding for the flight UA-160 began.

We boarded the Boing 767-300/300ER. A large aircraft with 2 outside and 3 middle seats per row. This time Jesco and I stopped in row 24 and stowed our carry-on luggage. By now we have already remembered how that works




Day 0
24.08.2022, Cosma Heckel


The engine is humming, golden lights stretch along the horizon. We are driving 120 on the highway, all six of us in the minibus.

The dark blue sky , adorned with many bright dots, stretches from horizon to horizon. Hard to believe that one of them could be the Orion capsule in a few days. Today is day zero. Starting today, a journey begins, all the way to the moon and back. But before the largest and heaviest rocket worldwide takes off and flies to the moon, we first travel to America.

It is 10:32 as I look at my smartphone and rub my eyes, still sleepy from the last online preparations and the almost 5 hours of sleep. Moments later, thoughts flash into my head of things that should better have been done yesterday. Packing the luggage. That’s why Jesco´s, followed by my suitcase stood in front of the car around 12 o'clock. Now that the "big things" were done, it was time for the small things, which honestly took most of our time.

We had to pack cameras, charge their batteries and put them into our luggage. This selection was made up of 2 GoPros, three reflex cameras and a 360 degree cam. With that, capturing the rocket launch on camera is already assured;)

Next, Jesco and I got the task of packing 40 Star-ship rockets with all of its accessories. After counting them multiple times, they were complete, carefully stored and ready for takeoff.
Probably the coolest task on my checklist today was assembling a mini-rover. This model replicates, with a 1:10 ratio, the current rover that we use for training of my team, the Rovernauts.

It was already 21:30 when we quickly ate dinner and finally sat in the minibus (23:30). All six of us. After 2 hours we finally arrived at the BER. Now the adventure begins!

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