No I know, the coffee you order is the same. The gas you pay for is chemically identical to yesterday. The beer you like on tap is the same. The food you may struggle to obtain remained scarce. Your thirst was unchanged. Your freedoms are just as restricted or not as they were before. Your fight for freedom in oppressive regimes didn’t change a whit.
But at 3:44 AM today, Eastern United States time, so much changed.
Oh, the impact will take time. All transformative technologies do. The Internet took 20 years for it to reach the everyday person. And so does the first private servicing of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Earth Orbit (EO) face the same obstacle. Except government programs have, sometimes on purpose and most times not, stood in the way of progress in regards to LEO and EO.
Let me say that more clearly: NASA has been primarily holding near Earth exploration back. It wasn’t intentional, and NASA would not agree with that, as they have set up the liaison to private sector. But the agreements that resulted in tonight’s launch were only very recently reached. And I would argue that their position only evolved as the government funding of shuttle servicing of EO/LEO started to drop off.
So clearly, I am an anti-NASA fan now in regards to pace.
I know, OMG YOU HERETIC ASSHOLE YOU WANT TO DESTROY MARS ROVERS AND CASSINI.
Seconds ago the first privately engineered rocket and capsule went into orbit to demonstrate its ability to service the International Space Station and future projects in LEO and EO. This follows the first launch of private spacecraft to send humans into LEO just to send them.
There’s a lot that can still go wrong, the capsule won’t reach the ISS for 3 days. But…She’s in orbit.
This is how it begins. This is so much more important than the last shuttle launch. It doesn’t feel like history, but it is. And NASA only agreed to it because it no longer had the shuttle to rely on.
I watched the SpaceX Dragon launch in tears of pride. It’s now on us, not our massively funded governments who sometimes run risk for little gain. Mark my words. With this change it all begins. Within 10 years, things like sub earth orbital private transport will replace the utility of something like the Concord as the method of making it from LA to Japan in an hour. Sub orbital flight will move quickly after 2022 from extravagance to novelty to utility. It all requires getting things like the government programs out of the way.
Our romantic relationship with NASA as how people explore space has to end. Other governments will help, other private enterprise in other countries too.
And, it’s time for private enterprise to help, freeing NASA to evolve into Air Traffic Control for LEO and EO and let them concentrate on the next big missions: Return to the Moon, Mars, and exploration of moons like Europa and the Asteroid belt.
I do not say this lightly. I am a sucker as much as anyone for the Michael Bay slow montage of how we got here. Mercury, Gemini. Apollo. Shuttle. And NASA has to all reports been an excellent partner in creating this moment. As much as I feel the past 20 years have been somewhat hindered by NASA’s sole control, they have adapted to the future like scientists.
So SpaceX has taken a step. Virgin Galactic has already taken a step. And hell, this was just the launch. Dragon won’t reach the ISS for three days so something can still go wrong. But that’s still progress.
There will be failures. People may die. Like all exploration it will be painful.
Godspeed SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. You hold the near future in your hands. Let’s let NASA hold our far futures in their hands.
Oh and SpaceX? Dragon is a beauty. She flew true. What a flight. What a night. I am so proud.