Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tour of SpaceX


"The solar system is full of cool places. We just need to go."
~ Garrett Reisman, former NASA astronaut,

now Crew Development Program Manager for SpaceX

While down in SoCal last week (or was it the week before? Sorry, I'm currently on Nyquil, and quite possibly time traveling –- life now is just a matter of killing time until the final Shuttle Launch!), I actually made a rogue stop at a little start-up company that may make some huge splashdowns in our space-faring future.

Perhaps you've heard of Space Exploration Technologies? And may I just say, they have a mind-blowing facility with room to grow, and the absolute awesomest street in all of Hawthorne, if not the greater Los Angeles area.

Rocket Road
I am, of course, being facetious when I say "start-up"… and I could tell you why it's not a starter anymore, but then I'd have to kill you. I also could have taken some photographs of the interior – but then they would have killed me. That's right, no photography allowed on SpaceX tours. Sad face.

Dragons and Falcons and Merlins were all on the tour for my space-greedy eyes to drink in, but you'll have to take my word for it, because the images are only in my little brain. You have to go there yourself for the full monty, as it were… and one hopes they scratch together some sort of public tour by the time they make good on their intentions to create the successor to the Space Shuttle.

Space Exploration Techologies
Last year, I wrote about SpaceX when they became the first commercial company to recover a spacecraft after it orbited Planet Earth. Certainly the space industry was all agog at this achievement, but I suspected that most of the general public didn't truly grasp what had just happened... what this group of young people in Hawthorne, California had truly accomplished. A non-government entity that could conceivably put warm bodies in space? And perhaps just the first of many?

I had the pleasure of meeting some bright, young engineers at SpaceX, and getting to ask them questions about their work and plans was so much more enlightening than reading a press release or following short sound bytes on the news.

Heather at SpaceX headquarters
They are busy working to expand their operations in Texas now, and their hiring process never seems to slow; their ambitious Launch Manifest spells out quite bold plans for the next few years, continuing to work with NASA, other commercial space companies and varied international partners.

So, SpaceX... the next great American adventure?? Time will tell.

And yes, while on tour with the delightful young man half-my-age, I saw the infamous cheese wheel. Touched it, in fact! (The cheese, not the chap).