How a Falcon Carried a Dragon Into the Future
In the dark hours before dawn this morning, Tuesday May 22, 2012, history was once again made along Florida’s warm and humid space coast. After a series of extensions and delays — and even one literal last-second scrub — SpaceX successfully launched its Dragon capsule aboard a Falcon 9 rocket… a trailblazing event that opens the doors of our nation’s future in space!
The event was broadcast live online from several sources including NASA TV and SpaceX’s own website. If you weren’t awake at 3:44 a.m. EDT, the footage of the launch from SpaceX is above, including their live mission control voiceovers (and no small amount of audible enthusiasm from their team!)
It was a beautiful launch, and the excitement felt by everyone watching — in person as well as online — could be felt, no matter where you were.
Shortly after the launch, Dragon separated from the Falcon 9 and successfully deployed its solar arrays — a key step in the mission.
The Dragon capsule contains 674 pounds (305 kg) of supplies and provisions for the Expedition 31 crew aboard the ISS, which it is scheduled to dock with on Friday, May 25. It will be the first time a commercially-managed craft will dock with the ISS.
In addition, the Falcon 9 rocket held the cremated remains of 308 people, delivering the ashes into space via a third-party company called Celestis. Fittingly, two of the individuals are Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, who played Scotty on the original Star Trek series and films.
After delivering its cargo the Dragon capsule will be released from the ISS and return to Earth for retrieval and reuse.
Just after launch, the White House issued a statement of congratulations to SpaceX and NASA from Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, John P. Holdren.
“Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the President’s plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space… I could not be more proud of our NASA and SpaceX scientists and engineers, and I look forward to following this and many more missions like it.”
– John P. Holdren
And my own thoughts on the launch?
I think there was a lot of anticipation that had built up for the event, as well as a lot of huffing and puffing about whether or not commercial spaceflight is the way to go, and some had their doubts about whether it would work at all (as some always do). But once that Falcon left the tower, shedding chunks of ice and climbing a pillar of flame into the dark predawn sky, I think a lot of minds and hearts opened up in an instant to the path that’s now been opened, onwards and upwards.
It was a good morning. 🙂
Video source: SpaceX