New potential from Falcon Heavy.
The future of space flight did not end with the retirement of NASA’s mighty space shuttles. The future did not end with the International Space Station. Ask the men and women who designed and launched the Rosetta spacecraft. Ask the Chinese or the Russians. Ask anyone at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The future of space flight, manned or unmanned, is never ahead of us, but an ongoing adventure shared by the human race. Humans, it can be said, are always working on the future.
Only two days ago, SpaceX put on quite a show with the Falcon Heavy test launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The five million pounds of thrust from this multi-engine vehicle must have sent thundering tones across a launch pad that once accommodated the great Apollo and space shuttle missions. A new partnership with NASA and this commercial pioneer has brought new possibilities to Cape Canaveral, with references to the whole area as a “spaceport”. The latter term is significant: harbors used frequently for transport are forever known as ports. The brainchild of Elon Musk is not the only player in this field, as mentioned in a NASA press release of the Falcon Heavy launch:
Beginning in 2011, Kennedy sought partnerships with the U.S. aerospace industry to use former space shuttle facilities. Today, NASA has partnerships with more than 90 companies that enable commercial space manufacturing, processing and launch operations along Florida’s Space Coast … Kennedy’s first significant partnership with industry allowed Boeing to use Orbiter Processing Facility 3, now known as the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility, or C3PF. Here Boeing is manufacturing and processing its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which is slated to carry astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. SpaceX will similarly launch astronauts from Launch Complex 39A for NASA.
This is the future business. From designing satellite software to the next generation of space propulsion, everyone can grab a stake in it. Perhaps the most important sign of this progress can be heard in the SpaceX video of the Falcon Heavy launch–the sounds of cheers from SpaceX personnel, a multitude of young voices, each belonging to someone with a share of the future.
Whether commercialized, privatized, or government-backed, space flight is a sign of human growth, a herculean act to demonstrate the skill and intelligence of an evolving people. Without space flight, we are earthbound forever. Without space flight, our dreams wither and fade. To touch the stars is to unlock our potential, to merge adaptation and adventure in one grand gesture of achievement.
Photo: NASA/Kim Schiflett