February 6, 2018
Today is my birthday, and I was given a wonderful present.
Late this afternoon, SpaceX successfully launched its very first Falcon Heavy rocket into solar orbit. The two strap on boosters returned successfully to landing pads at Cape Canaveral. The core booster apparently experienced a problem and missed its target on a barge anchored offshore. The second stage powered Elon Musk’s wine-red Tesla electric car … along with a mannequin named Starman … into orbit around the sun, then past Mars, into the asteroid belt and beyond.
Why was this such a wonderful present? When I was seven, my dad to my brother and me to see Robert Heinlein’s story, Destination Moon. I was so impressed, I decided then and there I was going to be the first man on the moon. Of course, life didn’t work out as I planned. I never made it to the moon.
So I’ve been waiting 68 years for a private company to build and launch a rocket into orbit … and recover the boosters for reuse. That’s the way it has to be done, if we earthlings are ever going to leave this planet and colonize other planetary bodies.
When I covered the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, I interviewed Robert Bigalow, real estate billionaire who established Bigalow Aerospace. Bigalow has developed an expandable habitat for use in space. He told me he was just waiting for the rockets to catch up to his work. Now that’s happened.
There is only one destination in space at the moment — the International Space Station. With SpaceX’s success, there is now an opening to develop enterprise in space and establish as many destinations as we want … including Destination Moon.
I will never fly in space, but I will live long enough to see people walk on the surface of Mars, establish a permanent base on the moon, and perhaps even mine an asteroid in situ. I am watching my dream come true, albeit vicariously.