12.09.10

What the SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Success Means to America

Posted in Current Events, Entrepreneurship, Politics, Rants, Technology at 2:50 pm

Yesterday morning, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and accompanying Dragon capsule into orbit, and safely brought Dragon back home. This was COTS Demonstration I, which means they are proving to NASA that they are capable of launching and maneuvering cargo (and eventually astronauts) into orbit and to the International Space Station.

This mission is paramount because the Space Shuttle program is being decommissioned and we’re going to have to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets to get astronauts and cargo to the ISS. America needs to act fast, and SpaceX is stepping up to the plate and has recently hit three home runs.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Takes Off

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Takes Off

SpaceX performed this feat with just a FRACTION of the budget and number of failures that other government entities and larger companies have had. They are showing that privatizing works when done right. Put a bunch of geniuses in a room with a solid vision, a fiscal goal to achieve, and an inspirational leader, and this is what you get.

I am very close to many people at SpaceX, as they were one of my primary customers in my old sales job. I am still friends with many of the employees, as they are a great group of guys. I am honest when I tell you that every time I stepped into that building, I was the dumbest person in the room. I can’t say enough good things about them, the missions they’ve accomplished, and how they do so much with so little.

SpaceX is founded by Elon Musk, who was the co-founder of PayPal and also runs Tesla Motors.

What the SpaceX Launch Means to Me… and America

Note: This is the way I see things. I follow space, but not so closely that this is how it all went down

Over the past decade, we have had two American government administrations that have done nothing but balloon the size of the government with basically zero productive results. There has been nothing but bureaucratic waste, failure, and endless “wars”.

Our Space Shuttle program has been ailing, as was evident by the 2003 Columbia disaster. Our shuttles are no longer certifiably safe, and they need to be put to noble rest. So Congress commissioned NASA to create the Constellation program, a new human space transport program. Sounds cool, we can keep up with Russia and China, right?

Wrong.

As many expected, NASA shit the bed with Constellation. They were so covered in shit that they were unable to even provide a reasonable estimation for how much the program would even cost!! Talk about flying blind! (Original 2004 NASA estimates were that it’d cost $230 Billion to get to the moon)

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch

So much win.

So I have to credit President Obama for doing his homework and canceling the program. Instead, he decided that it was time to take a “bold new approach to human space flight that embraces commercial industry”, as Constellation was “over budget, behind schedule, and lacking in innovation.”

So he created the COTS program, designating $6 Billion to fund commercial technology companies to get it done. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences won the bids, with behemoths Lockheed Martin and Boeing left licking their wounds.

What you see in the video above is somewhere south of $600 million worth of investment. That is less than the amount of “cost threats” NASA calculated as being risky endeavors for the Constellation program. While this bloated program was busy making mistakes (yet keepin’ them cushy jobs!), SpaceX got busy flying rockets – and making profit.

I know that it’s not so clear cut, and SpaceX still needed a LOT of NASA help to communicate out there, but let me continue.

Okay… But why should I care about any of this?

Dragon Capsule About to Splash Down

Dragon Capsule Comes Home

Good question. This country is on a downward spiral, so why are we worried about sending expensive rockets into space?

The first part of the answer is that if the shit hits the fan, we may need manned missions that we can operate. Even with SpaceX, the US still has a gap where we cannot fly manned missions ourselves after Atlantis is decommissioned. We will have no safe shuttle!!!! SpaceX doesn’t think it can officially bring an astronaut to space for 3 more years, which probably means 4.

Sure, we have companies like Lockheed, Boeing, and SpaceX that can bring your satellite into space. But if we need to do spacewalks to fix things, do we really want to rely on the Russians and Chinese? It’s not a good situation if relations go downhill, which isn’t out of the realm of possibility. I for one don’t completely trust anyone but Americans with my precious cargo and communications systems.

The second part of the answer is this: While NASA is less than 1% of our budget, it’s a microcosm for everything that is going wrong with this country.

You can spend billions upon billions of good peoples’ money by pushing paper around, or you can let a bunch of smart people attack the problem with the incentive of that forsaken word, PROFIT.

So my question back to you is, if a company of 1200 employees can accomplish at a fraction of a price what a huge government organization of 18,000+ people cannot do… where else can this country save money and put power back into the hands of the people?

It’s not rocket science, people. Well, except it is, and privatization STILL worked. Why not try it in places where it’s a bit easier than building space ships?

So congrats once again to SpaceX and all of my friends and past associates.

Yesterday was a great day for America and our founding principles.

Elon is 39, and today I turned 29. I have exactly ten years to be as fucking cool as that guy.

3 Comments »

  1. Larry Salbira said,

    12.11.10 at 9:06 am

    Well said Mike. 10 years. Let’s do it.

  2. Alison Lowndes said,

    12.12.10 at 12:15 pm

    Love this article and love SpaceX – “Put a bunch of geniuses in a room with a solid vision, a fiscal goal to achieve, and an inspirational leader, and this is what you get… a wheel of cheese in space!!!”

  3. Chad Vordemesche said,

    02.07.11 at 6:23 pm

    Great article Mike. I didn’t know you were a great writer too!

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