Courtesy of The Long Now Foundation, The Rosetta Project and the European Space Agency, I was given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a historic space mission, the Rosetta comet probe, launch.
Jim Mason, my friend and the director of the Rosetta Project, and I went to French Guiana to see it:
(pictures by Michel van Pelt of ESA)
It was no ordinary launch, in many ways. It was in the middle of the night, during Carnaval, with the most expensive piece of scientific space hardware ever built in Europe. The contrast between the earthly chaos of Carnaval, the heat of the jungle and the space mission with its cryogenic fuels was one of the peak experiences of my life. Despite the fact that I was actually unable to see the thing lift off (Jim stayed for it, but getting in and out of French Guiana is tough and I took the charter back with most of the rest of the observers), I had an amazing time. Thank you to everyone who made it possible!