History Just Happened and You Should Care
T-minus 13 minutes.
It’s 2:31 in the morning. I have important exam things tomorrow. But tonight–or really, very early this morning, history is being made. The first privately owned spacecraft is launching to dock with the International Space Station. I am watching it happen, sharing predictions and capital-letter updates with night-owl Facebook friends.
Terminal count begins.
I’ve got ten minutes before liftoff to tell you why this matters.
SpaceX is one of two private companies that have spaceflight contracts with NASA. They are about to be the first to launch a commercial flight to dock with the ISS. Do you know how cool that is? That is so cool.
Why? This is the future of spaceflight. This is how we can move forward. SpaceX makes nearly all of the required parts in-house, drastically reducing the cost of production. SpaceX is far less hampered by the whims of politicians; while they depend on contracts, they aren’t NASA, dealing with a budget straight from Congress. And most importantly, SpaceX will keep exploring. Elon Musk, the CEO, wants to get humans on Mars in the next ten to twenty years. Humans on Mars.
As of now, SpaceX has 40 launch contracts, and plans for a private launch site of their own.
Two minutes until liftoff.
The Falcon 9 is carrying supplies, including a computer and food, up to the International Space Station. It will be three days before docking is completed and the hatches between the two crafts are open.
Everyone is cheering. I’m doing my best to squash all the jumpy and shouty tendencies this is bringing out in me. My roommate is both sick and asleep, and running around yelling isn’t an option. I get all teary instead. History is happening, and I can stream it on a tiny computer while sharing excitement with people around the world.
Solar panels unfurl from the Falcon as it orbits. Everything has gone as planned, and the Twitterverse and blogosphere and Facebook are all throwing simultaneous silent dance parties. Updates are tumbling out so fast I can’t keep up.
This is what the future looks like.
Catch a replay of the liftoff here.