I’ve always been someone who looks ahead and believes that, in hope for the future, we have to look to the skies. While NASA's own space programs are part of the past, the future is now tied into privatization of space travel, exploration and, eventually, colonization.
That’s why I have believed that space travel would be normalized and become a way out of our troubles. Many of our problems stem from global limitations; we have to move to the open-ended possibilities of going beyond our earth and into the cosmos.
SpaceX’s recent test flight with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board the Dragon spacecraft meant that human spaceflight has returned to the United States. On Saturday, May 30, these two former NASA astronauts boarded the Dragon spacecraft and re-launched human spaceflight by the USA.
Both men are military test pilots, engineers, and members of the same NASA astronaut class. Each flew on two space shuttle missions, married a fellow astronaut, and have a son. SpaceX described them as "badass space dads," while fellow astronauts say the two men are deceptively intelligent and now pioneers.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launched Crew Dragon"s second demonstration mission (Demo-2) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA"s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The next day, Crew Dragon autonomously docked to the International Space Station (ISS). At 7:35 p.m. EDT on Saturday, August 1st -- after 63 days at the Space Station -- the team on board the ISS with the American duo autonomously un-docked and departed from the orbiting laboratory. At 2:48 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 2, they splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Pensacola, Florida.
This mission was the final major milestone for SpaceX's human spaceflight system, executed in order for the company to get it certified by NASA for operational crew missions to and from the ISS. The SpaceX and NASA teams have reviewed all the data for certification; NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi will fly on Dragon's first six-month operational mission (Crew-1)-- now targeted for late September 2020.
This particular launch not only brought the USA back into the game but it represented the first commercial contract for a crewed NASA launch. Is the privatization of space the future? In 20 years, will the millennials of today be taking their grand kids on commercial space flights and building orbiting colonies?
In any case, I didn’t get as worked up about this flight as I did when space fights were completely untested events in the '60s. The early space trips that took place had all my attention then; when these two intrepid space travelers returned, I was far less excited.
Maybe I had a sort of deflation or even a blasé reaction about it all because it was a result of tech visionary Elon Musk's efforts. Musk, who co-founded and leads Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink and The Boring Company, can chortle. The travel-focused entrepreneur oversees all product design, engineering and global manufacturing of the company's electric vehicles, battery and solar energy products. There we go, that raging capitalist, an arrogant conservative full of bile and ego, someone who skirts the edge of being a conspiracy theorist while actually making a go of it -- is the hero of the moment.
Maybe that’s what it takes, a man who has such a vision, but this success was needed to kick-start us all; our global future has to expand well beyond him.
The point? We each have to make our own collective push towards new technology and the future. And that might save us all as we survive through this pandemic.