The launch of the latest SpaceX rocket the night of Dec. 22 wasn’t just a rage on social media. According to the Los Angeles Times, it appeared to have resulted in pileups on Southern California freeways as well. A video posted to YouTube hours after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launched from the Vandenberg Air Force base shows a three-car crash as seen on another driver’s dashboard camera and has garnered more than one million views.
Drivers Were Distracted by Rocket
The dashcam video shows the vehicles traveling west on the 10 Freeway in Banning when drivers begin to take note of the rocket that is brightening the dark skies. The driver in the vehicle with the camera and his kids can be heard discussing the rocket and sounding awestruck by the streak of light in the skies ahead. The driver then slows down for other drivers who appear to slow down and look at the sky as well.
Just moments after they drive under the South San Gorginio Avenue overpass, a loud thud is heard and a vehicle in the next lane is seen crumpled and shoved into the car in front of it by a van that rear-ended it. The white vehicle skids out of its lane and the car that it crashed into is spun out onto the shoulder. The van also skids to a stop, but remains in the far left lane. The vehicle with the dashcam appears to have escaped without damage. But the video that has been posed onto to numerous social media accounts has generated more than a million views.
No One Was Prepared for This
The interesting fact about this rocket launch was that no one was made aware of it. It came as a surprise. On social media, people began to wonder what that streak of light was. Was it a UFO? Aliens attacking our world? Was it Santa? Soon, it became evident that the streak of light was none of the above, but the Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 telecom satellites for Iridium.
But why did it look so weird? Meteorologists say that’s because as the first stage of the rocket zoomed through the upper atmosphere, it passed through an area of dry, cold air. The engines, burning rocket propellant and liquid oxygen, left a trail of exhaust that froze quickly in the cold, quiet conditions.
What we saw was similar to the condensation trails that trace the path of airplanes across the sky. Experts say the rocket’s trail looked so luminous because it was at such a high altitude that the sun, in spite of setting an hour earlier on the ground, still shone on the condensing cloud. The glowing teardrop shape also highlighted the separation of the first and second stages of the rocket.
As Los Angeles car accident attorneys who represent injured victims and their families, we hope the public is given advance notice of these rocket launches so they are not taken by surprise especially when they are driving. Our area freeways are challenging enough for distracted drivers without the added surprise of glowing rockets traversing the night sky.