I saw a rocket launch!

My experience at ISRO's Launch View Gallery.

India’s first mission to attempt a soft-landing on the Moon, Chandrayaan 2, was launched on July 22 atop the country’s most powerful rocket, the GSLV Mk III. On the same island that hosts the launch complex, ISRO had invited the public to witness the launch from their newly inaugurated ‘Launch View Gallery’. I was present there to view the launch!

The Launch View Gallery has a seating capacity of 5,000. ISRO had a Space Exhibit in the basement for engaging early comers on launch day. Basic amenities like food and washrooms were available throughout for everyone’s convenience. ISRO will be building a rooftop in the future to increase comfort during rains or when under a bright sun.

Here’s a picture of the crowd prior to the launch.

The crowd at ISRO’s Launch View Gallery awaiting the Chandrayaan-2 launch.

We were sitting merely 6 kilometers away from the launch pad. The crowd buzzed with excitement as the launch approached closer. At just after T=0, amidst all the cheering, we saw the rocket ascend.

Launch of GSLV Mk III from Sriharikota, carrying Chandrayaan-2, as captured from the Launch View Gallery which is about 6 kilometers away.

It was the first time I had seen a rocket take off, and it was mesmerizing! The rocket plume was brighter than I thought, despite a brightly lit afternoon. About 15 seconds post-launch, everything started shaking a little bit thanks to the sounds waves from the engine that had just reached us. About 20 seconds later, I felt a strong thud in my chest, caused by the rocket going supersonic.

A GSLV Mk III rocket ascending, on its way to Earth orbit. Credit: Jatan Mehta

The dramatic rumblings of a rocket launch is something that needs to be felt and cannot be put in appropriate words or captured on video. There’s something beautiful about the thought that we humans, despite all our differences and oddities, can send something out of our planet and into space.

Trail left by the rocket before it disappeared into the clouds.

My friends know me for geeking out after every time I experience a plane take off because it’s amazing to know something has been designed to go air-borne. Watching a rocket launch is the next level, in that it is space-borne! I can’t wait to experience another rocket launch and even plan a trip with my parents once.

I highly recommend everyone to go see a rocket launch. Opportunities in India are available every 2-3 months and you can register on ISRO’s website closer to launch. Elsewhere on Earth, you should be able to web search and find out. Children were among the most thrilled that day, so taking the curious little minds can be a great idea.

Here’s the video of the launch, which captures the excitement of the crowd. It felt so good to see so many people gathering and cheering for a rocket launch, and not some sport or a movie.

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