Most of the public at today’s launch of the Starship rocket system watched from South Padre Island, which lies about 5 miles away from the launch site across the water.
But one group of hardcore fans got a bit closer to the behemoth rocket as it roared to life, sending out shockwaves of sonic booms and plumes of exhaust and dust across the landscape.
They gathered at a place aptly named Rocket Ranch — which was created for SpaceX obsessionists.
The camping site and a remote viewing location lie just up the road from the Starship’s launchpad off Boca Chica Highway, a narrow strip of asphalt that serves as the only way of trekking to and from SpaceX’s facilities in South Texas.
When CNN visited on Friday ahead of the launch, Rocket Ranch’s managing partner — Anthony Gomez — was herding dozens of campers and SpaceX fans onto a refurbished school bus.
Guests had to travel by bus from the camping ground to the viewing site on Friday night because the surrounding roads were blocked off ahead of the launch to keep people out of the area. Otherwise, the only way to access “The Outpost” is by a small pontoon boat in the Rio Grande River.
The viewing site is so close to the pad that patrons had to sign waivers.
“I voluntarily assume all risks associated with viewing rocket launches on Rocket Ranch property, including the risk of physical and emotional harm,” the waiver reads.
Overnight, the spectators made fajitas as the excitement built.
Gomez said the crowds grew rowdy as the countdown clock ticked through its final seconds, screaming “go Starship!”
The sounds of the engines “shook you to your core,” he said.
“The tears began to flow all around us,” Gomez said via text message. “Everyone seemed to embrace, as they understood what was being accomplished here, in Boca Chica. Something we all feel the world needs to see for themselves: The future of our kind takes one step closer to reaching the stars.
“This is the most beautiful thing we’ve ever seen,” he said.