Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster loaded inside the spacious Falcon Heavy payload fairing, which will throw it into a Martian Transfer Orbit during this week’s demonstration launch.
On Tuesday, February 6th, during a launch window that opens at 1:30 PM and ends at 4:30 PM EST, SpaceX will attempt the maiden launch of its newest launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy. As a demonstration flight, rather than a commercial or government satellite, it will instead launch a test payload consisting of CEO Elon Musk’s own Tesla electric roadster.
The historic significance of this launch will be lost on most, dismissed by cynics as just another corporation debuting a new product they hope to court the masses with. What a majority of people fail to realize is that not all rockets are created equal.
Happy New Year, ladies and menfolk!
2015 was quite a ride. NASA announced the crew that will fly its Commercial Crew missions, SpaceX bounced back from a resupply mission to the ISS that got a little too “interesting” and successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket, and the Crew Dragon was given the green light to break atmo for the first time in 2017. And on the pop culture side of the ‘verse, The Martian made readers and moviegoers want to “science the sh*t” out of things, and a brand new Star Wars film broke both the internet and the box office, which means a whole new generation of young people is now dreaming of one day traveling to a galaxy far, far away.
Almost a year ago to the day, we laid out a plan for how we were going to go for hard-burn in our efforts to convince SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Now that year is behind us, and it’s worth taking a brief look back at the year that was to see what soared like a leaf on the wind… and what fell out of the sky like it had a Capissan 38 engine!
The failure of SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission may have some in Washington doubting the reliability of the Falcon 9 and Dragon, but if merchandise sales alone are any indication, SpaceX’s workhorse rocket and space capsule haven’t lost any popularity with the general public, and it looks like Dragon remains the real “belle of the ball.”
How would I know this? Well, just four days ago (August 11) I had the pleasure of visiting the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. That’s something I’ll talk a lot more about in a future post, but for now I’d like to share one particular experience to make my point. As with most Florida attractions, the Visitor Complex at Kennedy Space Center has a rather substantial gift shop, where visitors can buy everything from books about space authored by astronauts to patches from historic missions and replica space suits. A guy like me could easily blow a day’s wages in a place like that and justify it by convincing himself that the money was going to further the efforts of the American space program. When we had finished our tour of the launch facilities and the various other attractions (including Space Shuttle Atlantis on static display), I naturally had to pay “The Space Store” a visit before our group left the complex to spend the rest of the afternoon at Cocoa Beach.
As I approached the main gift shop, the first thing I noticed was a window display that featured mannequins wearing “Occupy Mars” t-shirts! “Hey,” I said to myself, “Those are SpaceX shirts! What’re they doing here? This is a NASA gift shop…” No sooner had those thoughts flashed through my mind than the shop’s automatic doors opened before me to reveal a very large display right in the front of the store featuring an array of familiar SpaceX merchandise and a sign that said “New Arrival.” There were SpaceX t-shirts, hats and polo shirts in various colors, “Occupy Mars” t-shirts, hats and coffee mugs and t-shirts bearing the logos of both the Falcon 9 and the Dragon. Even more astounding than the selection was the fact that these items were being given prime real estate– right at the front of the store!
This display is currently front and center at NASA’s Space Store at Kennedy Space Center’s Visitor Complex at Cape Canaveral.
“How cool,” I thought. “NASA must be showing a little love to its Commercial Crew partners by carrying their merchandise in its shops.” After a quick look around the store, though, that theory fell out of the sky faster than a ship with a Capissen-38 engine. Not only could I not find any CST-100 merchandise, there was no Boeing merchandise of any kind to be found anywhere, let alone at the store’s front entrance. I had to conclude that the marketing push was strictly “a SpaceX thing,” and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t tickle me a bit.
“Well… here I am.” — Jubal Early, Firefly “Objects in Space”
Yes, here we are. Another year is behind us, and a new year lies ahead.
If you haven’t already, it’s a pretty safe bet that over the next several days you’ll be bombarded with all manner of retrospective pieces about the year that was 2014. That’s appropriate, of course. It was quite a year, with more than its fair share of highs and lows. Those who have been following developments in the space industry are probably familiar with more than a few of them: ISS missions and their commercial resupply flights, ESA’s Rosetta, the disastrous Antares launch and the tragic Virgin Galactic crash, the unveiling of SpaceX’s DragonV2, the awarding of NASA’s Commercial Crew contracts, etc. While it’s always good to take a moment or two to look back on where you’ve been and see how far you’ve come, we’d like to keep the focus of this first post of the New Year on what lies ahead for Take Back the Sky in 2015.
OUR TIME IS NOW
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the motion picture Serenity, the movie that was the realization of a dream for Joss Whedon and the fulfillment of Browncoats’ wishes the world over in that it provided a measure of closure to the story that was begun in the television series Firefly while laying the groundwork for future adventures of Serenity and her crew. That fact alone should be reason enough to believe that 2015 is the perfect time for those of us who want to convince SpaceX that their first manned Dragon capsule should bear the name Serenity to step up our efforts, both to recruit still more Browncoats to our cause and to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX of its worthiness. But nostalgia for the film’s tenth anniversary is hardly the only thing that will be motivating us this year.