How last night’s Antares Rocket Launch was delayed by a guy in a boat

One of the funnier parts of the scientific method, at least during work in the field, is that nature is a cruel prankster.  The smallest things can derail the greatest of experiments.

More often than not this results in catastrophe, yet some of the greatest leaps in Science have come from something that seemingly went wrong.

Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin when he noticed that a bacterial culture had been contaminated with mold, but the bacteria did not spread anywhere near the mold.

Penzias and Wilson discovered the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation when they were trying to detect faint radio waves bouncing off a balloon satellite.  They kept trying to eliminate interference from their detections by doing everything from cooling the detectors to cleaning pigeon poop off of the antennae, but the strange hum remained.  It came from every direction and was nearly the same over the entire sky.  Luckily they realized what they had discovered.

Yesterday the NASA launch of the Antares rocket was ruined because a man in a boat happened to stray into the restricted waters South-East of the launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia.  NASA officially delayed the mission due to ‘public safety.’

Antares Rocket with Cygnus Capsule. Credit: Orbital Sciences

The funniest part of it is that Millions had come out to watch the first ever night launch of the rocket, and during the 10 minute launch window, conditions were perfectly calm and clear.  This had all the signs of a perfect, straightforward launch.

Visibility of the launch Credit: Science@NASA

The Antares rocket is the result of a NASA contracted corporation called Orbital Sciences. This is the third launch of the Antares, which is propelling the Cygnus spacecraft filled with 5,000 lbs of cargo heading to the International Space Station for Resupply.

The launch is rescheduled for today at 6:22pm EDT, and you can watch it here.

Imagine how the boater must have felt when he was approached by federal agents and police boats.  Poor guy probably just wanted to fish.

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