Tensions mounted at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. In the morning on May 22, the Dragon Space Capsule was lifted on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. When the International Space Station was crossing 249 miles over the North Atlantic, the countdown began. This was a moment for the history of space exploration. Lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 was complete and the Dragon Space Capsule was speeding toward the International Space Station. This moment was described by Leon Musk, designer of the Dragon, “Every bit of adrenaline released in my body at that moment.” Soon, the Dragon Space Capsule would dock with the ISS and be the first space vehicle sent into orbit from the Private Sector. These are moments from of one of the more recent scientific discoveries that will change our life
THE SPACE SHUTTLE RETIRES
In 2011 after 30 years, NASA ended the Space Shuttle program. The Space Shuttle was both an astronaut taxi and delivery vehicle to the ISS. Russia was the only way to send supplies to the ISS. NASA gave SpaceX, a California based company $390 million to come up with a replacement. SpaceX contributed its own money to the project and came up with the unmanned Dragon Space Capsule.
The goal of the Dragon is to undercut the price of $63 million to put astronauts on the Russian Soyuz space capsule. The seven seats on the Dragon could be sold for $20 million a piece to NASA.
THE DRAGON SPLASHES DOWN
The touchdown in the Pacific was flawless and two minutes early. What effect does this historic mission have on our lives? On a positive note, it will create jobs. Now, a Private Sector company can create an unmanned capsule successfully. Now, NASA can execute a $1.6 million contract with Space X consisting of 12 cargo flights. I think the Obama Administration is on the right tract by asking the Private Sector to come up with a vehicle to replace the Space Shuttle.
But, we must deal with the opposition. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Sen. Richard Shelby R-Ala. says “When is the Administration going to get the message that Congress is not willing to subsidize so-called ‘commercial’ vendors at the expense of NASA’s core mission of engineering and exploration”?
Of the current funding of $500 million, only $3 million goes to ventures of this kind. In my opinion, that is hardly a subsidy when companies like SpaceX are willing to use their own money to help the cause.
NEGATIVE, BUT ADDRESSABLE
One negative was a failure in the long rangefinder called LIDAR causing a delay in the berthing of ISS and the Dragon. This is a minor problem. But, it must be addressed before manned flights are resumed in 2015. This could be a potential safety issue for ISS and the Dragon. With this mission complete, the United States can be proud to contribute to a new era in space exploration.