The hundreds of people who lined a cornfield about 5 miles outside Lompoc Sunday night, anxiously awaiting the SpaceX rocket launch and booster return, were not disappointed.
The launch created an incredible light show in the sky complete with a firecracker ending.
“There were so many things going on, I didn’t know what was happening with the rocket ship,” a young viewer, Dylan Prakash, said.
A glow of light became a stream of fire and then, within seconds, the booster detached mid-air.
“It was so incredible to see how much it lit up the sky,” Australia native Selena O’Sullivan said. “It looked like an alien invasion. It was creepy but insane.”
As the booster made its return to Earth, witnesses on the ground felt a powerful mix of awe and fear.
“I must admit, it looked like it was going to land on top of us,” Jeff Shipton, who came to the area from Santa Cruz, said. “Everyone was looking like ‘what way do we run?'”
The booster’s cinematic descent ended with the sound of fireworks making for a sort of grand finale that resulted in applause.
“The best part was the sonic boom, it was burning and falling,” O’Sullivan said.
“It was great, extraordinary!” a group of young children agreed.
For the thousands of people who waited hours for this experience, the magic will extend far beyond this one night.
“Whether you’re into space or not, it’s bringing people together because it’s extraordinary, it’s history,” Cal Poly student Luke Dubois said.
“It’s great, you think about sporting events and you see this and (the rocket) launches and some returns,” Hans Haas, who made the trek from San Diego, said. “So it’s really special to be here with everyone.”