Today private company SpaceX launched a robotic module, Dragon, from Cape Canaveral to rendezvous with the International Space Station later this week. Though there were no astronauts on board, the ashes of 306 people including James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek), we launched along with the capsule.
I’m tremendously happy to see someone launching a craft into space, even if it isn’t NASA. I felt it was a poor decision for NASA to discontinue the shuttle program before having a replacement vehicle. I was born in 1985, a year before the Challenger disaster. For many years the Russian space station MIR was humanity’s finest achievement in space (that little hunk o’ junk lasted up there 15 years whereas we grounded SkyLab in less than two). All NASA seemed to do was launch missions into low Earth orbit, or send robot probes to distant planets instead of people. We had the Hubble, which took years to get working properly, but long gone were the days of going to the moon or anywhere else.
Then we started on the International Space Station. At first progress was slow, and there we some early talks of grounding that station by 2015. Now it’s become a true outpost in space, one that will hopefully last into the next decade at least, and possibly be the place where we start to study the technology and build the spacecraft that will send us beyond our planet.
Then we stop the shuttle program and have to rely on the Russians to taxi us up to the station. I know the cold war is over, but really?!
I’ve felt for a long time that privitization was the only way anything was going to get done in space (in fact it was the topic of my first novel I drafted in High School). Maybe it takes a rich crazy billionare like Elon Musk to get us out into space, where a government funded agency cannot. I’ve always been annoyed at people who wanted to cut the NASA budget in favor of “more important” problems on the ground, when NASA is but the tiniest fraction of the federal budget, and by far not the most wasteful. A private company ends this argument, Elon Musk or Richard Branson or other crazy people can spend their money however they darn well want too, and at least one of them has the same dream I did when I grew up watching The Next Generation.
Technology advances and humanity grows because we try to go after the pipe dreams, the things beyond our reach. Sometimes we have bumps along the way, but we have to keep trying. If we only look to the ground pretty soon we’ll trip over our own feet.
Thus concludes my song.
Bonus Points to anyone who can identify which episode of The Orignal Series Good Morning America’s picture is from. It’s one of my favorites!