Words fail! How to describe the excitement as NASA and SpaceX made history by launching that rocket into space? I cried, as did my buddy Michael, as the men and women who toiled to make it happen cheered wildly while we all watched the Falcon 9 rocket roar into the sky. To recap: this was the first launch of humans into orbit from American soil in almost a decade and history’s first launch of a private spacecraft carrying astronauts to orbit.
“New era of spaceflight dawns, as SpaceX sends NASA astronauts into orbit,” shouted the L.A. Times headline. “Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley rocketed to space Saturday afternoon aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, en route to the International Space Station. Despite some initial weather concerns, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:22 p.m. EDT. The capsule is set to dock at the station early Sunday morning at 10:29 a.m. EDT.”
Bob and Doug! Going 1,500 miles per hour! It was awesome (this occasion requires that word) to be able to see them, inside the capsule, all chill during the initial thunderous lift. Our view was over their shoulders toward their sleek console showing a screen view of a serene planet Earth. They did a fist-bump after the Falcon 9 rocket, having delivered its precious capsule into flight, did that thing that only Elon Musk can engineer: landed on a small platform (a robotic ship) in the middle of the ocean oh-so beguilingly called “Of Course I Still Love You” (named after sci-fi author Iain M. Banks’ starship).
And all this while humanity is in the grips of a still-raging pandemic. In fact, the other view that nearly stopped my breath was live footage of the earthly control room. Think Apollo Mission Control and all the guys in white shirts and black-rimmed glasses, but all the guys and gals in this case were wearing face masks and sitting six feet apart. Holy Shit. Excuse the profanity, but what a fu*king contrast. An apex of human achievement happening as the globe continues to suffer mass death because of a germ.
And excuse me, but fu*k yes I noticed that two of the pros explaining all of this to us on the SpaceX website were black. And no they weren’t just now hired because of the other event pounding our brains at the moment.
The other cool view: Bob and Doug with their “zero-gravity indicator,” a bespangled toy that looked to be a dinosaur. “Thanks for the great ride to space,” Doug told SpaceX ground control as he and his crewmate batted around the purple stowaway.
Again, the Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock with the ISS at 10:27 a.m. EDT tomorrow morning. SpaceX and NASA are evidently streaming every bit of the mission at least until then. So go have some fun and feel some hope for a break from all that’s making Earth a bit of a hard place to be at the moment. Look up. There’s a lot to see. As Musk said this week, the project is aimed at “reigniting the dream of space and getting people fired up about the future.”