You’ve heard of football tailgaters, but rocket tailgaters?
SpaceX in 2017 launched 18 rockets into space, a record for any private space company, garnering lots of attention and millions of launch livestream views online over the year.
But this year, there were also plenty of die-hard SpaceX fans, like the ones we met at the company’s final launch of 2017 in Vandenberg, CA, who came out to those launches to be a part of history in person.
"I watch all the SpaceX launches on the web," said Matt Dunne, who was visiting from Australia at the time of the December Iridium 4 SpaceX launch. "I thought, 'Wow, it's too good of an opportunity not to miss – to actually see the real thing.'"
It was the first rocket launch Dunne had even attended in person, but plenty of his fellow tailgaters were repeat IRL launch spectators.
"These guys haven't seen a rocket go up, and I said, 'It's physically impressive ... the sound and fury,'" Gerard Block, who's seen several launches from Florida's Cape Canaveral, told Circa.
Most launch sites across the U.S. Offer official, ticketed viewing spots for rocket events, but when those fill up, or maybe when perhaps goers would just rather take things in a little further from the hustle, a nice comfy spot on the side of the road will do.
"I hear people got kicked off the beach, so this seemed like the right space," said Max Rosenzweig, who was propped in a chair next to his car.
And don't think the space business folk doesn't notice the enthusiasm. Iridium CEO Matt Desch said, "For 50 years we've been watching rockets launch, and I don't think the public is any less excited about this incredibly large thing – in a controlled explosion – getting successfully into space."
"It's been fun as a CEO of satellite operator seeing all the people around the world who want us to succeed – want SpaceX to succeed and want us to succeed."
As if you needed any more reason to believe that seeing one of these rocket launches with your own eyes is the way to do it, look no further than SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk himself: