A Rocket to Change the World

Space Travel, like nostalgia itself, aint what it used to be. It is not a symbol of the future or national pride. It’s just something we do for some reason. I mean, for 100% of my life at least one person was living up there. They poop and jerk off and dwell on petty insecurities just like you. Just like me. Hardly a frontier, final or otherwise. There is no race to the moon anymore. We’re barley trotting to Mars.

In fact, the only person who seems into it at all—who is not a damn fool—is this guy:

Elon Musk is, as they say, the retroactive inspiration for Tony Stark: equal parts philanthropic nerd and Ayn Rand sex-fantasy. This dude perfected the electric car and then just gave the plans to everyone in the world. For free. If you have some kind of infrastructure in place to mass produce cars you can simply Google “Tesla designs” and, surely with no other steps required, make a billion electric cars. But whatever. What I’m saying is he’s a rare mind, and he wants to go Mars.

Earlier this week, his Space Travel Company (and totally badass Saturday morning cartoon title), SpaceX, was set to launch its Falcon 9 rockets on a mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). It was forced, though, to call it off. In reaction to the aborted launch Musk tweeted out this:

Now that was either a nerd-joke…or the truth, just for nerds. Regardless it is reminiscent of the epic failure of his competitors in the Privatized Space Game, Orbital Sciences Corp. Their rocket, Antares, set to make the same ISS run, did this:

Musk, to his credit, could smell what was coming from the jump. In a 2012 interview with Wired Magazine he said, "Their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the '60s. I don’t mean their design is from the '60s—I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the '60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere." Their failure gave Musk a golden opportunity.

Musk’s Falcon 9 rockets are a multi-billion dollar deep-spacecraft of a different color. They aren’t made of whatever was in NASA’s basement when they moved off the Federal Budget. They were designed to not just take off, and not just move an unprecedented amount an unprecedented distance, but to come back home intact.

Nothing like this has ever existed. We always…well almost always…get the space shuttles back, but until now we always just ditched the rockets. Musk’s launch was going to be the first of it’s kind. It was going to return from its mission and land safely on a platform off the coast of Florida


That is the rub. It might not. Musk is desperate for Mars. As a boy, he planned to put a garden there, and now he nearly has the means to hoe that row himself. For him, turning that trip from Donner Party to, at worst, floppy disc Oregon Trail would define him as one of the most important people to ever live. The Falcon 9 launch is the next big step in that direction. And if it fails it could be a significant blow.

Foremost, Musk is a businessman. Space Travel must remain profitable and reliable for his dreams to come true. That means Government contracts. That means staying relatively affordable on the open market. And that means, most definitely, that Musk won’t have an infinite number of opportunities to get this reusable rocket right. The Concord only had to fail once for people to lose faith, so we see Musk and SpaceX being as cautious as possible right now. The Orbital Sciences Corp. explosion may have gone a long way to reminded future investors of the realities of Private Space Programs. It’s money only some times well spent. Nothing is guaranteed.

But if it works…it might be time to give a shit about Outer Space again.

@TJStaneart is an editor with Bellows American Review. His work can also be found at slowreaderreport.com.

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