Unified in Space

launch America NASA SpaceX Falcon 9 RocketI was one of 10 million people with the privilege of watching the NASA and SpaceX Joint Demo-2 Mission that took place on Saturday May 30, 2020.  The joint mission’s objective was to launch, from the Kennedy Space Center, a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket into earth orbit as a test flight of the rocket system’s launch capability. The company’s new Dragon Spacecraft was atop the rocket and the additional objective was to test the spacecraft’s ability to reach low earth orbit and to deliver two American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) while successfully testing all of the spacecraft’s operational systems and achieving a  successful docking with the ISS.

This was an important space exploration milestone which accomplished validation that an American commercially developed rocket and spacecraft could successfully deliver people and payload into low earth orbit. This accomplishment is paving the way to ultimately assemble people and equipment into earth orbit on their way to a lunar orbiting Gateway Space station. This is our new space exploration objective, to create a permanent operational base on the lunar surface in preparation for a Mars Mission.

It was a blessing for me personally to witness this weekend’s mission because I was born in the first half of the last century. As a young technologist, I worked on Wernher von Braun’s NASA Apollo Program. I am blessed to still be alive and able to work on the new Artemis Program, which is taking us back to the moon.

What an extraordinary privilege it was to ride along with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley as they achieved a successful mission, made possible by hundreds of NASA and SpaceX leaders and contributors.

It was a unifying event as we are globally combating a serious COVID-19 pandemic and nationally working through racial unrest.

As I think about this milestone event and the subject of space exploration in general, it brings to mind an answer to the question, “Why are we even funding returning to the moon and going to Mars?” I have an answer and a strong response. I have known for a long time why we naturally have an exploration drive. It’s why 200 years ago we went west to see what that part of our nation could bring us. We constantly ask ourselves the question, why?

We went to the moon in the 1960s because we were curious about how our planet was formed and to see if there was evidence of life on another terrestrial body. A driving force behind our continuing to explore is to answer that and the related questions on how the universe was formed and if we are alone.

Our government and national leadership are funding NASA to investigate and research those questions, and also to inspire young people to get excited about it. It is our nature to seek answers to the unknown, to try to understand who we are and how we fit into the vastness of space that our Space Telescope is revealing to us. 

As we continue to face the pandemic and racial unrest, my hope is that we can also see how this positive space exploration joint accomplishment is future facing. It is an example of how we collaboratively can come together—in America and globally—to achieve extraordinary objectives, holding hands and working together to achieve great things.

Were you able to ride along with us on Saturday, and what are your thoughts about the SpaceX mission’s significance?