Global events that capture the collective minds of society sometimes never register with me, while other events that might be considered more “fringy” by the masses absolutely captivate me and send my brain to weird and new places.
The event messing with my head right now happened when California based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launched their Dragon spacecraft into space and successfully docked with the International Space Station. Why is this so captivating for me?
SpaceX is a privately funded company.
In short, this isn’t your daddy’s Government funded space mission. This event marks the first time in history that a commercial company’s spacecraft has docked with the International Space Station. This is history.
As open and honest as I can be with you, there are times when I observe the chaos of our world and wonder if my wife and I made the right decision to bring children into it. I worry that when they are older they will only know a life of national debt, terrorism, famine and nuclear war. Trying to imagine what the world will be like when our kids are in their 50s is more frightening than exciting.
Events like this help balance those negative thoughts and move the needle back towards excitement for their future.
It gives me confidence and hope that my children will grow up in a world still ripe with innovation, advancement, discovery and exploration of new frontiers. To me this event means new jobs, it means the United States is still a global leader and it means important ventures such as space exploration, typically dependent on Government, have life in the private sector.
There is a point in nearly every boy’s life in which they want to be an astronaut when they grow up. Then 99% of the time that dream gets dashed by the daunting realization of the required education, money and time. Today, SpaceX is attempting to “reduce the cost and increase the reliability of space access by a factor of ten.”
Does that mean that more boy’s (and girl’s) dreams of becoming an astronaut, or even just involved in the process, will be realized as SpaceX attempts to simplify space exploration by “eliminating the traditional layers of management, internally, and sub-contractors, externally?”
I honestly have no idea, but my educated guess would be that; yes, the opportunities and access into the world of space exploration will increase for children with such dreams. Plus, this event thrusts space exploration back into the spotlight whereas recently most of the talk has been about delayed launches, shuttle damage during liftoffs and budget concerns.
Like the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup last year after a long drought giving birth to new and most likely lifelong hockey fans in New England, my hope is that the first ever successful docking of a private spacecraft to the International Space Station will give birth to new, lifelong fans of space exploration.
My 4-year-old son has been very into hockey since all of the excitement from last year, and if him DVRing the NASA channel earlier so he wouldn’t miss anything during bath time is any indication, I think I may have a little space junkie on my hands as well. The next generation of space exploration is born, both as an industry and generationally.
This was a great day for our country and a great day for the world.
In case you haven’t realized by now, I like space.
This article originally appeared on Chelmsford Patch on 5/26/12.