Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Space Era X


And today, the blogosphere is awash with excitement about the little capsule that could! Congratulations to everyone at SpaceX for the successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, and the successful orbits and recovery of the Dragon spacecraft. The latter will now undergo a deep forensics examination, and many have already predicted that it will wind up in the Smithsonian.

Videos of the events and comments by NASA administrator Charles Bolden are available on the YouTube Channel for NASA TV. Nothing burned up! All three chutes opened! The capsule splashed down on it's exact target! Wow.

Of course, within moments, CNN featured Time Magazine asking, "Is NASA Irrelevant?" LOL, one suspects they have been saving that one for any hint of a commercial space flight success! I was gratified to see many people defend NASA in the comments section of this extremely inaccurate and poorly researched article, utterly unworthy of Time in its misleading rhetoric. SpaceX is a commercial partner of NASA, and this was all part of a NASA program, founded to develop commercial launch systems.

SpaceFlight Now Mission Status Center
I won't rehash all the details here, because NASA TV is re-running it incessantly as we speak; and write-ups appear on every space site today, from Discover to Spaceflight Now! Though speaking of SpaceFlight Now, I think they had the best real-time coverage and photograph galleries, so I'm happy to re-direct people to their Mission Status Center for an overview.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk seemed downright dazed and uncharacteristically ineloquent at the post-mission press conference, but who can blame him? He thanked NASA at length, insisting they could not have done what they did without this particular public sector + private sector partnership, because all of their work is based on decades of NASA's core technologies.

Some other Elon Musk quotable quotes:

"It's hard to be articulate with a blown mind."

"People think the difference between cargo and crew required enormous amount of magical pixie dust, but this is not the case. If there had been people sitting in Dragon today, they would have had a nice ride."

"Will it quiet our detractors? If there are people who are going to cast aspersions on what was done today, I pity them. It wouldn't make any sense; they'd be fighting on the wrong side of yesterday's war."

The Dragon capsule carried a few thousand patches, SpaceX employee badges, and various other small keepsakes from the designers, but sometime today they will also mention a "secret payload" that was aboard their first flight. Musk was mum on the details, but assured his audience that "if you like Monty Python, you'll love the secret payload."

A can of spam? Albatross?! Can't wait.

SpaceX is the first non-government entity in history to orbit a spacecraft and recover it back on Earth. Very few people outside the space geek crowd truly understands what occurred today, and it may not be fully understood for some time – but if you watched and understand the gravity of this event, you are part of a minority who understands that a new space age has just dawned.