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The Week in Space 10/13/2012

Sam Blalock Carter arrived on the planet  at around 2:15 in the afternoon on October 13th, of 2012! He’s the newest addition to our family, and as his dad, I’m of course beaming!

When I was little, my dad made sure to hold onto all the newspaper clippings from the Apollo 11 landing that took place a few months after I was born. When I was old enough to understand that there was a moon, and that we could go there, he pulled out the perfectly preserved clippings and showed them to me.  Later when I told him I wanted to be an astronaut, he patiently explained to me that by the time I was grown up, astronauts would be the equivalent of truck drivers.  Sure, they’d fly the space ship, but just back and forth to the destination.  What I really wanted to be he explained was a scientist who could fly to a location in space and then do interesting work there.  To this day, my dad is the only person I know who has ever described an astronaut as a truck driver.

So, in the interest of family traditions and whatnot, I though it would be fun to capture here the happenings in space that took place the week before Sam was born.  It’s not the moon Sam, but in it’s own way, it’s very, very cool.  On October 10th, the SpaceX Dragon became the first commercial cargo carrier, (maybe dad, your grandpa Sam, wasn’t too far off with the truck driver analogy), used by NASA to restock the International Space Station.

In and of itself, the spacecraft is cool.  The Falcon 9 launch vehicle that placed the Dragon in orbit actually lost one of its rocket engines on the way up, but guess what?  It was designed to handle that and the launch came off without a hitch.  The Dragon capsule itself is reusable and for the moment, splashes back to Earth via parachutes.

Equally as cool is the story behind the company that launched the vehicle and it’s founder.  Sam, your dad was lucky enough to get to attend the 2008 ISPCS in Las Cruces, NM where Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, spoke about the company and his dream for it.  Elon first outlined how he and his brother had founded and then sold PayPal which provided him with the funding he needed for his two other goals.  The first of his goals was to make the planet more habitable; to that end he had started an electric car company, Tesla Motors.  The second of his goals was to provide a path off the planet and to that end SpaceX was born.  Elon went on at length about how what he called bomb-on-butt launch vehicles that are currently used must ultimately be replaced by more efficient devices, (again, it’s good to be a scientist/engineer).  The talk was captivating, it lined up with what your dad had thought for awhile, and consequently, a few years later when you were born Sam, your dad was studying physics, specifically the Casimir Effect, (who knows, NASA might be onto something).

I’ll leave you with an interesting side note about something I observed while at ISPCS that year.  NASA had started their competition for a space shuttle replacement.  Word at the convention was that SpaceX might have the competition all locked up if for no other reason than they were one of only two companies that had provided NASA with all the required materials on time.  Interestingly, several rather mature white-bearded men were scurrying around the conference that day and the next.  A few questions revealed that these folks were from the ‘other’, ‘established’ aerospace companies that hadn’t been able to meet the deadlines.  On the last day of the conference, NASA announced that they were ‘re-opening’ the competition.

A mere four years later, it’s heartening to see the SpaceX Dragon docked with the ISS.  It’s kind of awesome that in the current atmosphere of iPhone patents, corporate lawyers and giant bureaucracys, an entrepreneur with a great idea and flawless execution can still wind up on top!

One Response to “The Week in Space 10/13/2012”

  1. carroll carter Says:

    Very impressive………… cc

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