Image: SapceX’s Falcon 9 reusable rocket with the Crew Dragon on top being transported to the launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: NASA.
Last night 8.22 pm British time, me and my husband were glued to the TV excited like young school children. The reason? NASA and SpaceX were launching their new Crew Dragon space craft to take humans to the International Space Station (ISS) from US soil for the first time since 2011.
We watched amazed how the Falcon 9 rocket lifted off and separated successfully from the Crew Dragon. Afterwards the rocket flew back to Earth landing on a barge in the ocean. Instead of using the boring word ”barge”, SpaceX has come up with a much fancier word for this kind of vessel, ”autonomous space craft drone ship”. The maneuver looked like SpaceX was trying to flip a drinking straw getting it to stand up straight on a match box and it worked. Amazing!
While astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are still on their way to the ISS, many are celebrating this historic moment in space flight on Earth. The successful landing of a rocket to be reused after sending humans into space is a massive achievement and will potentially make space flight much cheaper in the future.
Not to talk about the fact that the US are finally able to send humans into space again. Since scraping the space shuttle program in 2011, US astronauts had to hitch rides in Russian Soyuz Capsules from Kazakhstan. Launching from their own soil again is an important step in NASA’s plans to put humans on Mars during the 2030s.
Why am I so excited about this? Why do I cheer for two American astronauts who get to go to space, when I will probably not even get to go on holiday this year nor see my family in Germany due to Covid 19 restrictions?
The reason is that this has shown me that despite all the problems the world is facing right now, we are still moving forward. Covid 19 has not stopped scientific progress. By still sending people into space we are following the deep human instinct of curiosity and exploration to push further and go where no one has been before. The Corona crisis has not taken this from us.
It has also given me hope, especially with the situations in the UK and US. International attention on the US lately has not exactly been flattering due to President Trump’s argument with Twitter about fact checking and the death of George Floyd, an African American killed by a brutal police force. The launch of the Crew Dragon has reminded me that there is still another America, one that is intelligent and innovative.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the last week in the UK has been dominated by ”Cummings-gate”, the scandal caused by Prime Minister Johnson’s senior advisor who thought he stood above the Corona lockdown rules, taking a trip across country to his parents and beauty spots. The British government handled this matter in the ugliest manner possible, showing how little they care about people’s feelings.
The launch of the Crew Dragon on the Falcon 9 rocket has ended this week of bad news in a very positive way, showing me that there are still good things happening in the world and that our societies are still moving forward. Most importantly, it reminded me that there are still hard-working people out there trying to build a better future.