A little after 9:00 am Thursday, (9/1/16) I heard a loud boom. The sky was overcast and Tropical Storm Hermine was off the west coast, sending unpleasant weather across the state so I initially thought the sound was a loud clap of thunder. There was a second smaller boom, and I thought maybe it was all sonic boom of the SpaceX Dragon capsule returning from the International Space Station.
Around 10 am my mom called from North Carolina asking if I knew anything about a SpaceX explosion. She’d heard rumblings on Twitter so I flipped on a local television station and found they had interrupted programming to discuss the explosion. I was surprised to hear the anchors talking like this was a death knell for SpaceX. Yes, it was a huge loss of money, but we are talking about a private company that is full of intelligent and innovative people. Surely they can figure out what went wrong and find a way to prevent it in the future.
If we stopped a project every time things didn’t go as planned we would be in a sad state. Failures help us learn and improve. There were a number of failed launch attempts before Alan Shepherd completed his first flight aboard Friendship 7. If we had quit trying after those first failures we would have never reached the moon and may have never invented the thousand of items that were made to move the space program forward, Did you know UV-blocking sunglasses, cordless tools, and water filters are just a few items that were developed using technology created by the space program?
We are living in an exciting time, not unlike the first phase of space exploration. Today we may not have the race against the Russians, but we should still be excited. If for no other reason than because private companies seem to be saying it’s not okay for us to be relying on the Russians to carry our astronauts to the Space Station.
Having spent more than a year researching the first 15 years of the space program for my novel Jessie and another year researching the first eight years of the Space Shuttle program for my work in progress, Virginia, I find myself comparing those days with what we are seeing now. With multiple private companies- SpaceX, Boeing, and now Blue Origin– there is competition and a surge of growth Brevard county has desperately needed since the end of the Space Shuttle program.
I will continue hoping SpaceX, Boeing, and Blue Origin will succeed and we will discover new frontiers.