I watched the SpaceX terminated launch last Wednesday and then again the actual launch on Saturday – immediately followed by watching Apollo 11, the documentary using newly unearthed film footage and audio recordings. This was the (so far) pinnacle of US achievement, landing Armstrong and Aldrin on the moon in July 1969. I was reminded that although things change, they also stay the same. This time it’s Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in the hot seats. The preparation, the suiting-up, the journey to the rocket and up into the Crew Dragon capsule which is essentially a tiny sealed compartment sitting on top of a giant bomb. The countdown and then – finally – the launch itself.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Though I’m immensely proud of the work on the International Space Station (as much for the cooperation between nations as the scientific achievements) like many others I’ve been frustrated by the world’s apparent lack of interest in establishing a moon base in the fifty years following the first landing. However, SpaceX now presents us with a commercial alternative to government-funded space exploration. It’s in the name, SpaceX. The commercially funded SpaceX launch in a reusable craft could be the first step to a return to the moon and our first trip to Mars. I’m writing this on Sunday morning and the live feed for the ongoing mission is still running. The astronauts have just been woken by their chosen wake-up song: Planet Caravan by Black Sabbath. I hope Bob and Doug had a good night’s sleep. I’m holding my breath for the docking with the International Space Station, one final co-elliptic burn to go.
Above: Mission control 2020
Below: Missoon control Apollo 11 1969
I watched the Space-Ex launch on Wednesday, tuning into NASA’s feed in time for the last hour or so, but within a few minutes it was evident that the launch was a scrub. Disappointing, but I duly tuned in again on Saturday to see the ‘candle’ lit. Pretty impressive – I am not a huge fan of Elon Musk but I should think he is justifiably proud of his company’s achievement at the moment. Great to see it go up although I was nervous. And good to see the Falcon alight back down again although I think Musk might have been reading too much Iain Banks given the name of the drone ship. It also occurred to me that conspiracy theorists must have had a field day with the brief loss of feed during the touchdown…
I watched the docking with my mother, who is 92 and who has been a SF fan for 40 years. We were both fascinated. I showed her the ‘space dads’ with their stowaway purple dinosaur and we were pleased to see Bob and Doug float through what I persist in thinking of as the airlock. Great stuff and I hope everyone on the ISS returns safely to Planet Earth.