I thought I’d share a humorous little anecdote that is probably indicative of what the average American knows about our legacy in space. Before I do that, though, allow me to set the scene.
In the six years that Take Back the Sky has been campaigning for a SpaceX Crew Dragon named Serenity, we’ve been encouraging people to send cards and letters to the company’s founder and CEO, Elon Musk, asking him to name the first ship of the line after the spaceship in Joss Whedon’s 2002 TV series Firefly.
From 2013-2016, Jeff and I appeared at numerous comics and science-fiction conventions across four states with the same message: it’s Elon Musk’s ship, and Elon Musk’s money, so, ultimately, the decision as to what the name of the first Crew Dragon will be is going to be his.
While that may still be true, in recent months some developments have led us to believe that Elon Musk himself may no longer be the key player in whether or not our campaign is successful. With less than a year to go until the Crew Dragon is launched for her first manned demo flight, we now believe that if we are to convince SpaceX to name the ship after Serenity, the person we really need to win over is President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell. Here’s why…
Since 2012, we at Take Back the Sky have been leading a grassroots effort to convince SpaceX to name the first of its manned space capsules after Serenity, the fictional spaceship from Joss Whedon’s science-fiction television series Firefly and feature film Serenity. Despite the fact that we’ve devoted a lot of space as of late (yes, the pun is intended) to covering the many launches that SpaceX has completed so far this year, we still think it’s important that we not lose sight of our raison d’être. To that end, here are ten good reasons why we believe the first manned SpaceX Dragon should be named Serenity…
For nearly four years now you’ve been listening to us tell you all the reasons why Serenity is the perfect name for the next manned US spacecraft. If you’re a Browncoat, you probably didn’t take much convincing, but even those who aren’t big fans of the series Firefly or the film Serenity would most likely still agree that the name Serenity embodies the ideals of 21st-century space exploration, which is certainly built more upon a foundation of peace and cooperation than the space race of the Cold War era was.
But some of you may still be asking yourselves, “Why are they so fixated on SpaceX?” After all, it was NASA who chose the name Enterprise at the urging of tens of thousands of letter-writing Star Trek fans, and NASA is still the driving force (and paying customer) behind the Commercial Crew Project. Besides, if what we read in the press is to be believed, NASA wants Boeing’s CST-100, not SpaceX’s Dragon 2, to be the first manned US spacecraft to break atmo since the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched into the black for the final time (on this very date four years ago).
Given the fact that SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon has already completed six successful resupply missions to the International Space Station and Boeing’s CST-100 has yet to leave the launch pad, I’m sure there is a lot of room for debate as to which ship will be ready to make the trip first. But we’ll save that debate for another time. Suffice it to say that we believe that when the chips finally hit the table, it’s going to be SpaceX’s Dragon v2 that’ll be ready to answer the call.
But that’s not the only reason why we’re focusing our efforts on SpaceX instead of NASA or Boeing. It’s also because we believe that SpaceX, unlike the others, cares about the relationship between pop culture and the space industry. In short, Elon Musk, Gwynne Shotwell and the vast majority of their employees at SpaceX are our kind of people. And that’s not just some vibe we’re getting. You only need look at their track record to see exactly what we’re talking about.
This morning, shortly before 5am, SpaceX finally launched a Falcon 9 rocket (after a few scrubbed attempts) carrying an unmanned Dragon on its fifth official resupply mission to the International Space Station (CRS-5). The Falcon 9 lit up the early morning sky, and was visible to a large part of the East Coast before it separated from the rest of the craft and began its controlled descent back to Earth, making an historic, albeit “interesting,” landing on a drone-piloted barge in the Atlantic Ocean.
Viewers around the world (including this East Coast writer, who set his alarm to wake him in time for spacex.com‘s 4:30am live web coverage and watched the 4:47am launch still clad in his pajamas) watched online as the Falcon 9 broke atmo and the Dragon capsule achieved Low Earth Orbit and deployed her solar arrays. Dragon will now rendezvous with the ISS at 6:12am on Monday, January 12.