Bedhampton family shocked by personal invitation to watch 'incredible' NASA rocket launch

A LETTER sent by space-mad children led to an out-of-this-world experience for a family from Old Bedhampton.

Saturday, 11th January 2020, 6:00 am

When project manager Matt Crookes helped his daughter Ciara, eight, write a letter to Nasa about how much she loves space, he did not expect the space agency to respond, let alone invite them to see a rocket launch.

It was a shock when former astronaut Robert Cabana, now head of Nasa at John F Kennedy Space Centre, replied to say he would like to help grow Ciara’s passion for science.

Matt, 40, said: ‘My jaw hit the floor and Ciara screamed with excitement when I told her.

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The launch of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft

‘A week later we received personal invitations to the maiden launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Spacecraft, the very first unmanned test flight.’

In December, Matt, his partner Joanna McDonagh, Ciara and her 10-year-old brother Conor flew out to Florida to enjoy a few days at the Disney theme parks before being special guests for the December 20 launch.

Employees of Nasa hosted the family as they travelled to the launch site, sharing facts and handing out gift bags.

‘I think it would be fair to say that at this point we were more than a little bit excited,’ said Matt.

Ciara Crookes, eight, and Conor Crookes, 10, were invited to watch a rocket launch at Nasa after writing to the space agency about their love of space

‘We were then given a safety warning, making sure we understood that we are present at our own risk and despite all reasonable precautions, Nasa couldn’t guarantee that in the event of catastrophic failure, a piece of rocket might not come flying in our direction.’

Wrapped up in blankets, the family counted down the minutes until the rocket was set to launch.

Matt said: ‘I wasn’t prepared for just how bright the light would be. The rocket was no longer discernible, now replaced by a glowing ball of light, as bright as the rising sun.

‘It cast a beautiful light pattern over the water below as it moved up, towards the night sky.’

Matt Crookes with his children Ciara, eight, and Conor, 10, wrapped up in blankets to watch a rocket being launched at NASA's John F Kennedy Space Centre in Florida

The experience was ‘surreal’ and the family still can’t quite believe what happened.

Conor said: ‘It was an amazing experience, the noise was incredible.’

Ciara added: ‘It was so much brighter than I imagined, it was really intense. I feel so lucky to have been there.’