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Charlotte and Scott pause to take a photo during their last visit, the morning of Scott's launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in March.
Amiko Kauderer
Charlotte Kelly, the 12-year-old daughter of astronaut Scott Kelly, is a TIME For Kids correspondent for the year

On March 24, I headed to Baikonur, Kazakhstan, with my sister, Samantha, and family friends. It would be my last opportunity to see my dad before he blasted off for the International Space Station. This is my dad’s fourth time in space but my first time at a Russian launch. Three days before the launch, I got to see the Russian rocket my dad would travel on emerge from the hangar. The air was a bitter-cold -18°F.

I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel about seeing my dad sitting on top of a rocket, getting ready to blast off into space for an entire year. I had heard that it would be a roller coaster of emotions. The truth is, that was my dad sitting in that tiny capsule, nestled atop a giant rocket in the middle of a desert in Biakonur! It was terrifying.

MORE: TIME is covering Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space.

Yet as the rocket launched in the far distance, it lit up the desert with such beauty. It was hard not to think of my dad while looking at the astonishing brilliance of lights and feeling the crackling vibrations piercing my body. This was him—leaving Earth. I almost didn’t realize that my sister was squeezing my hand about 10 seconds into the launch. I am still not quite sure how to describe how I felt. I was happy and excited for my dad but sad to see him go, knowing he would be away for such a long time. I was fascinated by the beauty and wonder of it all.

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