Journey to the Rocket - Wenchang Chapter - Minority Report#
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Looking up at the stars, how can one not see the twinkling stars!
How can one pursue dreams without venturing into the vast sea of stars?
Having a dream of becoming an astronaut, how can one not witness a rocket launch with one's own eyes?
So, I took my child and chased after a rocket.
Confirming the Rocket Launch Time (Wenchang Launch Site)#
Collecting Rocket Launch Information#
In general, detailed information about rocket launches in China is not announced in advance. To obtain the launch time of a rocket, one can only rely on various means. I was able to obtain a rough launch time from the following sources, which can be used as a reference for everyone:
Searching the Internet for "Wenchang Launch Schedule"#
There are enthusiastic netizens who have compiled launch schedules and various scattered information online. By searching through multiple channels such as webpages, Weibo, WeChat, and Xiaohongshu, you can generally find the approximate launch time.
Through my search, I confirmed that there would be a rocket launch plan around early November (probably on the 3rd). The rocket to be launched is the "Long March 7A Y6" rocket.
A brief introduction to rocket naming conventions:
- CZ = Long March, the main series of carrier rockets in China;
- The number following CZ represents the model, from Long March 1 to Long March 11, CZ1~CZ11;
- After CZ-7, English letters A, B, C, D, etc. are added to indicate modifications. CZ-7A can also be pronounced as "Long March 7A";
- After CZ-7A, Y1, Y2, Y17, etc. are added to indicate the number of times the rocket of that model has been launched. CZ-7A Y6 is pronounced as "Long March 7A Y6 Rocket".
Mission list of Wenchang Space Launch Center on Wiki
After finding this information, I still didn't dare to book a flight ticket easily, but I immediately booked a hotel and a rental car because both the hotel and the rental car can be canceled for free at any time. This way, I secured the price (during the launch period, there are hardly any homestays near the launch site for less than 500 yuan/night).
Checking the Shipping Vessel's Track#
With a rough time in hand, it is necessary to further verify the authenticity of the information. Wenchang is a seaside launch site, and the most suitable way to transport rockets to the launch site is by water. Therefore, by checking the track of the rocket transport ship and combining it with the rocket's preparation period, one can roughly determine whether the launch time found online is reliable.
The rocket transport ship in China is the "Yuan Wang 21 (MMSI: 412380260, Call Sign: BQIE)", and the production site of the Long March 5 and Long March 7 rockets is Tianjin. Wenchang Launch Site is also specifically used for launching Long March 5 and 7 rockets.
It takes about 7-8 days to sail from Tianjin Port to Wenchang Qinglan Port.
The rocket launch preparation process takes about 26-35 days.
Track of Yuan Wang 21
The predicted launch time for this launch is November 3rd. By checking, I found that Yuan Wang 21 had already arrived at Wenchang Qinglan Port on September 21st, with Tianjin as its departure point. It can be seen that the predicted launch in early November is generally reliable.
However, this time is still very broad, and it is not enough for me to book a flight ticket. I still need to obtain decisive information.
Related Tourism Products#
Wenchang is not as popular as Sanya, Lingshui, and Wanning for vacations. It is not as well-known as Haikou and Qionghai. The local tourism industry mainly relies on rockets. Therefore, the launch time provided by local tourism product marketing is generally more reliable. By searching for keywords such as "Wenchang Rocket Viewing", "Wenchang Rocket Launch + Month", and "Wenchang Rocket Study", you can find information about related tourism products.
These messages generally do not provide much information, but they do include the launch date. This is the important information we need. Based on this date, it is possible to plan the itinerary.
Rocket launch tourism products
After confirming the launch time as November 3rd, I booked the flight ticket. The next step is to pay attention to the weather and wait.
Although the itinerary is basically confirmed, there are many uncertainties in rocket launches, so it is necessary to be prepared, lower expectations, and mentally prepare for not being able to see the rocket.
Confirming the Launch Time#
The final confirmation of the launch time will probably have to wait until one week before the launch. Pay close attention to local news releases, government announcements, and traffic police announcements.
Two important pieces of information that help confirm the specific launch time:
- Notice prohibiting the flight of small aircraft and floating objects (issued by Hainan, Hainan Tourism Bureau);
- Notice of road traffic control (Wenchang Traffic Police).
The rocket launch date for this launch is November 3rd. On October 23rd, the Wenchang Municipal People's Government issued a notice titled "Notice on Prohibiting the Flight of Small Aircraft and Floating Objects at Specific Times", which stated that the time in the notice is "from 12:00 on October 30, 2023, to 12:00 on November 5, 2023".
On October 31st, the Traffic Police Detachment of the Hainan Provincial Public Security Department issued a notice titled "Notice on Implementing Road Traffic Control", which clearly stated that the traffic control time is from 12:00 on November 3, 2023, to 12:00 on November 4, 2023.
Based on the information collected earlier, it can be determined that the mission was carried out on the night of November 3rd.
About Filming the Rocket#
As a member of the smartphone party, of course, I used my phone to film the rocket.
- Phone: Xiaomi 13 Ultra, iPhone SE 2
- Lens: 400mm phone lens
- Tripod: 1.8m selfie stick tripod, octopus tripod
Telephoto lens + selfie stick tripod
The location for filming the rocket in Wenchang is crucial. The following are the main shooting points:
- Rooftop of a residential building in Longlou Town: Close distance (4 km), facing the launch pad, charges for the shooting position (ranging from 300 to 1600); preferred position for the media.
- Qishui Bay Beach: Medium distance (4.5 km), good atmosphere, crowded, free; with sandy beaches, the sea, and the rocket.
- Hilton Balcony: Medium distance (4.8 km), exclusive balcony, expensive room rates.
- Shitou Mountain Park: Far distance (8 km), relatively fewer people compared to Qishui Bay.
- Tongguling: Far distance (8.8 km), high vantage point, position needs to be fought for.
Distribution map of filming locations
Here is a reference image of different positions and focal lengths. The image content is from the SpaceLens team.
Wenchang Rocket Filming Positions Map by SPACELENS
Let's talk about my filming location, which was on the rooftop of the homestay where I stayed. The property management of this residential area would close the rooftop passage during the launch period. Fortunately, there were some unexpected circumstances in the building where I stayed, which allowed me to watch the rocket launch from the rooftop during the launch period. It was purely a stroke of luck. The high-rise building near Qishui Bay, 18 floors high, is 4.8 km away from the launch tower.
Moment of the launch of Long March 7A Y6 (screenshot from video) by Xiaomi 13 Ultra + 400mm lens
Moment of the launch of Long March 7A Y6 (screenshot from video) by iPhone SE2
- It is difficult for phones to capture the Mach cone.
- Adjust the exposure parameters promptly after ignition, otherwise, only a bright light will be captured.
- It is best to use a reliable tripod.
- As the predicted launch time approaches, make sure the equipment is ready in advance, otherwise, there is a high probability of missing the ignition.
- Consider whether to follow the entire flight of the rocket; if so, be prepared in advance, use suitable equipment, and chase the rocket without any equipment... not something an ordinary person can do.
- When bringing a child to watch the rocket, the child's safety always comes first.
Filming a rocket is a costly technical activity, but it is truly enjoyable. I filmed a video that I am quite satisfied with on my first attempt at chasing a rocket, and I am very happy about it.
Experiencing this immense energy together with my child on-site was a wonderful experience. In order to help my child better understand the rocket launch, I made a T-shirt for her with no design, just knowledge points. I explained all these knowledge points to her before we arrived in Wenchang.
When she stood on the rooftop and showed her T-shirt to unfamiliar children, explaining the knowledge points on it, I was overjoyed.
May she continue to pursue her dreams and move forward courageously!
Note: The next launch at Wenchang Launch Site is expected to take place around December 5th/6th, 2023.
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