Wrong Turn, Right Direction

I turned on my computer and stared in amazement at the video streaming through the glass of the tube-based computer monitor. In real-time (or about as close to real-time as it could be), I watched light reproduced on my screen as it had passed through the lens of a camera on the federally funded International Space Station only seconds before. That light had been converted into an electronic transmission, sent and received via an overwhelming number of electronic pathways before being converted back into the visible image that then entered my eyes.

The delay was very short, considering the overwhelming number of circuits, wires, and distances the signal had to travel to arrive to that little bedroom I sat within back then. The space shuttle was still flying then, and being able to see the docking was a far different experience than just reading about it in a printed newspaper the following day. The feat seemed as phenomenal to me then as it must have to those turning on an experimental television broadcast some 90 years ago.

Yesterday I saw an even more amazing feat live streamed through the internet to the flatscreen monitor of my desktop computer (as did millions of others). A commercial rocket with three boosters launched a payload into space that is now said to be headed to an unintended orbit (as opposed to its intended destination). I had been watching the successes and failures of the commercial space industry since the XPrize was first announced a great many years ago. Yesterday’s feat by the SpaceX team was as inspirational as any I’ve ever watched. It was as enlightening as seeing the Space Shuttle launch and subsequent docking via the internet all those years ago, as amazing as watching reruns of recorded Apollo missions, or the old reels of the first test pilots turned astronauts making the sky no longer the limit.

What an incredible accomplishment, inspiration, and remarkable success for something described as only having a 50/50 chance of making it. Two out of three boosters landed back successfully, and one Tesla Roadster is currently on its way to an orbit around the sun after the driver appears to have overshot the intended orbit a bit. Regardless of where the vehicle ends up, ultimately another giant leap has been made in the right direction.

Thank you, SpaceX. You’ve made this world a better place. Based on several comment streams I saw yesterday and today, you’ve given a generation the feeling of being born in the right century, and inspired hope for a brighter future in us all.