The big SpaceX news of the week – and possibly the biggest space travel news of the decade – is that NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have docked successfully at the International Space Station.
Hurley and Behnken represent the first people to launch from U.S. soil since the last shuttle flight in 2011 and the first-EVER astronauts to launch on a vehicle provided by a private company.
The nation watched and celebrated on Saturday, May 30, at 3:22 PM as a brand-new SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule into orbit.
Approximately nine minutes later, the Falcon 9’s first stage landed safely on the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean. The successful rocket landing – normally a celebrated achievement – seemed to be merely a footnote.
Our eyes, minds, and hearts were, instead, focused on the astronauts. We were still waiting for the Dragon capsule and its crew to safely achieve Low Earth Orbit, which they did minutes later.
By 10:30 Sunday morning, the astronauts had docked at the International Space Station and, within the next few hours, joined the international crew of the ISS.
The U.S., once again, has become a space-faring nation, no longer reliant on the technology of other countries to carry us to space.
And that’s exciting.
As SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said, “I think the future in where we are a space-faring civilization out there among the stars, that is very exciting… If we were forever constrained to earth, that would not be a good future.”
In a time when Americans face daunting challenges, for a few brief moments we were able to stand united and with hope for a better future. So many people needed this right now.
Piquing the Public’s Interest in Space Travel Again
As a SpaceX fan, I reveled in the successful launch and its implications for future space travel possibilities. But what really gave me joy was seeing so many friends and acquaintances who I would not consider space buffs excited about the endeavor. (Pun intended, as Behnken and Hurley named the Crew Dragon capsule Endeavor after the NASA space shuttle both astronauts took their first flights on.)
For a few moments the mission took our minds off the bad news and catastrophic events that have plagued 2020. While acknowledging that these problems still exist, we can – from the safety of our living rooms – appreciate that enterprise, exploration, and technology persevere. These things are important.
Yes, the U.S. has tremendous problems to solve. But we remain a nation of explorers, our minds on distant lands and our eyes to the sky. Those with creative visions can accomplish the seemingly impossible. Even amidst a global pandemic, that has not changed.
Drive, Determination, and Purpose Make It So
In the past few months, billionaires have been demonized (often rightfully so!) in the media. Yet, this great accomplishment, launching U.S. astronauts into space from U.S. soil, could not have been accomplished… and had not been accomplished for nine years … if not for the tireless efforts of a billionaire and his talented team.
Opinions may differ, but I find the act of giving humankind hope for the future a worthwhile expenditure.
What Else Is SpaceX Doing Right Now?
If you’ve recently become a SpaceX fan, or the weekend’s events have you wanting to learn more about the company, you may want to take a look at our coverage detailing the evolution of the SpaceX Starship. Work continues to progress rapidly in Boca Chica, bringing Elon Musk and his fans closer to the dream of, eventually, building cities on Mars.
I imagine a day when a space launch is not an historic event that has families gathered in front of their TV screens to cheer. Someday, space travel could be no more exciting than an airplane taking off on an international flight.
This weekend’s successful SpaceX / NASA mission brings that vision one step closer to reality.
Did you watch the launch? What were your emotions as the Falcon lifted off and U.S. astronauts soared to the skies from U.S. soil, on a U.S.-made spacecraft, for the first time in 9 years? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.