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My July fund-raising campaign, celebrating the 13th anniversary of the start of this website, has now ended. This was the second most successful monthly fund-raising campaign ever. Thank you again to everyone who has who donated or subscribed. It is difficult to explain what your support means to me.


You can still donate or subscribe to support my work if you wish, either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are four ways of doing so:


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An ordinary person’s view of the Starship/Superheavy countdown

Starship and Superheavy, stacked on the launchpad for launch

One of my readers, who wishes to go by is nickname Doubting Thomas on Behind the Black, went to Boca Chica earlier this week with the hope of seeing the live first orbital launch of Superheavy with Starship stacked on top. Unfortunately, the launch on April 17, 2023 was scrubbed, and he could not remain in Boca Chica for the now rescheduled launch early tomorrow morning on April 20th.

He sent me some pictures of that experience, however, which I post here with his permission. The best of course is the one to the right, of Starship stacked on Superheavy on the launchpad. This was taken before the roads were closed, and shows how incredibly close the general public can get to that launchpad simply by driving past on a public road.

The next few pictures give us a glimpse at the options people have for viewing future Boca Chica launches.

The Boca Chica Public Beach

Rocket Ranch

Rocket Ranch observation point

The first picture to the right shows the entrance sign at the public beach at Boca Chica. Apparently once can drive your car onto the beach and camp there prior to the road closure. You of course then have to stay there, either until after the launch (preferred) or until the roads reopen. I am not sure of the distance from this beach to the launch tower, but it is almost certainly more than five miles. Nonetheless, the view would be grand. See the correction below in the comments.

The second picture shows the entrance to the Rocket Ranch, where Doubting Thomas stayed, who explained,

The Ranch is an old campground purchased by a set of friends who had gone to the Cape to watch the first Falcon Heavy launch and saw a niche business in Brownsville and Boca Chica.

The third picture is actual viewing stands at the Rocket Ranch, dubbed the Outpost. Note the “Don’t Panic!” sign. According to Doubting Thomas, the stands are about 3.85 miles from the orbital launch tower, making this almost as good as the viewing stands for V.I.P.s at Cape Canaveral.

From the Rocket Ranch website:

Rocket Ranch Starbase is a unique camping destination located on the Rio Grande River. We are nestled in the southernmost tip of Texas. Due to the curves in the river, we are literally south of the border. The Space X Starship factory and launch pad are only 8 miles away.

This rugged terrain is where the last battle of the Civil War was fought and is now a wildlife preserve, home to hundreds of species of birds. Only a short drive to one of Texas’ most secluded beaches. We have a lot to offer, so come and stay with us and enjoy this hidden oasis.

You can stay at the ranch either by camping, bringing your own camper, or renting the ranch house. There appears to be a waiting list to make a reservation, but then, why should that surprise us?

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Doubting Thomas

    Robert – Gratified that my pictures help your readers see what an amazing thing is going on in my home state of Texas. One minor correction that I am sure my communications to you was unclear on.

    The beach sign picture is right on the road that goes by the launch pad and empties out on the beach. If you stood the way the sign picture was taken and right faced plus a bit you would be looking up the dunes at the stacked Starship about 1,000 feet away. The Cameron County sheriffs clear the beach all the way to the Mexico border (about 3 miles miles south on the beach) and about 4 1/2 miles in the other direction (north). But when roadblocks are not established, you could (and I have had) beachside cookouts in sight of the Orbital Launch Mount. Many people there predict that the opportunity to walk down the road that close to a spaceship will eventually go away. I did not want to miss the rare historical opportunity.

    The next closest beach is Isla Blanca Park on the southern tip of South Padre Island that is about 11 miles away almost due north. To enter, they charge $12 cash, exact change not necessary. It gets pretty crowded.

    I’m not an investor in Rocket Ranch but their Outpost I think is the closest site to view from. It’ll cost you $100 to $200 per person. I bought the Mesosphere experience which is the aluminum tower on top of the conex box labeled “Don’t Panic”.

    I’m bummed I can’t be there tomorrow. But I plan to come back when SpaceX starts catching boosters and ships with the chopstick arms.

    Thanks for your great site and thanks to many of the people who comment here, I learn much from them too.

  • Doubting Thomas: Thank you for the clarification in connection to the beach sign.

  • wayne

    Doubting Thomas:
    Great Stuff!

    Pivoting– Who is aware of the solar eclipse??
    I’ll drop this in here:

    Total Solar Eclipse
    Perth Observatory /

  • wayne

    Typo Alert:
    2nd paragraph
    “He send me some pictures of that experience,”

    I can’t resist:

    Dark Side of the Moon
    Synced with the eclipse in Australia

  • wayne: Thank you. Typo fixed.

  • Jeff Wright

    “…who wishes to go by (h)is nickname…”

  • David Ross

    okay THIS is worth waking up for.

  • David Ross

    Well, at least they reached the point where they could attempt a stage-separation…

  • Blackwing1

    Mr. Ross:

    Yeah, it sure looked like the booster never separated from the payload before it started its flip maneuver. That, or they lost control of the booster/payload combination.

    Do we know yet if it blew up inadvertently, or if ground control sent the self-destruct signal?

    As it is, at least it got off the ground in one piece. I’m sure the post-mortem will be interesting.

  • Refresh Behind the Black. I have a report on the flight.

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