Within a single decade, humanity launched its first satellite into space, established several space programs and sent a man to the moon. Unfortunately, and nearly five decades after the initial success of these monumental achievements, we’ve failed to replicate the scale of the early days of space exploration. Although there are several complex reasons why, the answer mostly boils down to the fact that the costs of space travel are significant, and securing funding from the government during a time of political gridlock is an additional obstacle few believe will be overcome anytime soon. Yet there are those who believe that humanity’s future will be determined by its ability to colonize other planets, necessitating a robust space program. Elon Musk is one of them, and he’s trying to turn this into reality with the Falcon 9 rocket.
Musk has made it his mission to commercialize space travel. Earlier this week, Space X–a company founded by Musk–sought to land a Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform in the Atlantic during another mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). This particular mission is aimed at recapturing the rocket with an accuracy of 10 meters, down from 10 kilometers.
SpaceX believes that the Falcon 9 rocket will be able to slash the costs of space travel by a factor of 100 by reusing what we usually jettison into space. If you don’t know how much that is, don’t worry about it; it’s a lot.
Should Musk be successful, he will have revolutionized space travel. No longer will space programs grow stagnant because they lack the funds to progress. The number of commercial programs operating inside and out of the USA will skyrocket. The age-old argument about space travel being too great an expense will finally be gutted for good, and the implications for the future are enormous.
Unfortunately, SpaceX’s mission to land the Falcon 9 rocket was aborted due to technical issues with the rocket’s thrust vector actuators, and has since been rescheduled twice. Crap.
Although Musk had initially proposed about a 50% chance of a successful Falcon 9 rocket landing, he later admitted on the popular social networking website Reddit that he made up the figure. SpaceX had already released a statement suggesting the maneuver would be like “trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm.” In other words, no one knows how many attempts SpaceX will have to make before they get it right.
Crap, crap, crap.
Still, Elon Musk has managed to do with a company what only nations had accomplished before him, and we’ll be watching him closely to see what tricks he’s got up his sleeve.
Those interested in watching the next launch attempt can do so from SpaceX’s webcast, which is also providing regular updates on the status of the event. The launch is currently planned for Saturday Jan. 10 at 4:47 a.m. EST.
For now, check out this interview to find out more about Elon Musk and his mission for SpaceX (or if you just want to know a little bit more about what it’s like to purchase ICBMs from Russia):