By Douglass M. Stewart, Jr.
Photo by Linzee Alcaide
This amazing picture of the November 23 SpaceX DART launch was taken by a passenger on board a United Airlines flight to San Francisco
Thanksgiving is a time for feasting, families, football, and oftentimes frustration in getting together to make it all happen. So who would think that a lengthy flight delay at an airport would result in a once-in-a-lifetime experience? That’s what happened to Linzee Alcaide when she boarded United Airlines flight UA651 in San Diego on Tuesday, November 23. Linzee, a senior at San Diego State University and a major in psychology, was headed to San Francisco to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with her family. San Diego International Airport used to be called “Lindbergh Field,” in honor of Charles “Lucky Lindy” Lindbergh, the first pilot to fly solo from New York to Paris non-stop. He did it in 1927 in a single-engine plane named “The Spirit of St. Louis” and the trip took 33 ½ hours.  At that time, air travel for the public was still very limited but since then, more than just the name of that airport has changed.

Delays and schedule changes during holiday travel times seem par for the course at airports. Linzee’s flight was no exception. Due to mechanical problems and a required crew change, her plane wasn’t ready to board until five hours after its originally scheduled departure time of 4pm. “The flight was full and by the time we left San Diego, everyone was pretty stressed out,” said Linzee.
From her window seat, she noticed that everyone had lowered their window shades. Linzee was the only one who didn’t.  “Not long after we passed by Los Angeles and headed up the coast, the clouds below started to illuminate. They looked really beautiful and I took out my iPhone. I saw this shiny thing coming up and took a picture of it. I didn’t know what it was until I landed in San Francisco and showed the picture to my dad, a software engineer. He told me that I had photographed the SpaceX Falcon 9 DART launch that had just taken place at Vandenberg Space Force Base. We both were amazed at how fortunate I had been.”
DART stands for NASA’s “Double Asteroid Redirection Test.” This mission calls for the Falcon 9 to release a spacecraft that will deliberately crash into an asteroid called Dimorphos.  NASA scientists will see if the kinetic energy of the impact will have an effect on the motion of the asteroid. The data from this test will be used to devise ways to deflect asteroids and comets that are on a collision course with Earth. Dimorphos isn't a threat but this test is very timely.  NASA just reported that next week, a large "potentially hazardous" asteroid named Nereus will enter Earth's orbit.
Credit: Ron Miller
NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test,
as envisioned by space artist Ron Miller
I feel very lucky myself. At my own Thanksgiving gathering, my nephew Jordan Urabe asked me if I wanted to see an amazing picture his girlfriend, Linzee, had taken. I was astonished at what I saw and all of us take pleasure in sharing that picture and the story behind it with you.

To learn more about the DART mission, may we direct you to the latest issue of the American Institute of Astronautics and Astronautics by clicking here.

About the author:
Douglass M. Stewart, Jr. is the Producer/Writer/Director of the award-winning documentary, Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future. You can learn more about Mr. Bonestell and this film at

Ron Miller is an acclaimed space artist, the author and co-author of 70 books and is one of the Co-Producers of Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future.
Copyright © 2021 Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future, All rights reserved.

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