I, like over 14 million others on Saturday, watched as history was made. At 3:22 p.m. ET, a Space X Falcon 9 lifted off from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center, becoming the first manned-US space flight to take off from US soil since July 8, 2011. It was a sight to behold as the final countdown began, and the engines ignited. As I watched the flames bursting out of the engines and the great machine rise from the launch pad, I could not help but be amazed at the feet of cooperation and engineering that resulted in that moment.
Space science has been a passion of mine since I was a child. In fact, in my elementary school yearbook, I put my dream job down as being an astronaut. There is something magical about space; nothing can entice the imagination more than seeing a rocket blast off or a human floating outside of a capsule. It is a dream that many young people often have at one point in their lives. One a part of me still has, though I know the probability would be statistically low. That has not stopped me from continuing my love for it, and I still watch all launches I could; I study books on astronomy and science. I continuously search for new things to learn about space, science, technology, etc.
This was a test flight, one that captured the minds of millions and one that was sorely needed. The United States has been reliant on renting space on a Russian Soyuz rocket since the retirement of the Space Shuttle. An expensive and difficult arrangement that forced astronauts to travel to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to cram into a tight three-person capsule to get to the International Space Station. If this mission is successful, then the Crew Dragon capsule will become rated for human-crewed space flights, and the US will no longer be reliant on renting space from another country again. It also comes at a much cheaper price tag than the Space Shuttle or the Soyuz. The Crew Dragon capsule that was affectionately named “Endeavor” by astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken will dock with the ISS at approximately 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday morning. In total, the mission could last up to 128 days, and then the final and most dangerous test of the capsule happens, re-entry. When the astronaut’s splashdown and the mission concludes, NASA will give the go-ahead to human rate the spacecraft and missions could begin. I wait with bated breath for that moment as it will be just as incredible to watch.
To borrow from one of my favorite Sci-Fi franchises, space is the final frontier. It is where we can come together to benefit all of humankind, no matter race, creed, nationality, or gender. Space is the great equalizer; those who get to cross the threshold have to rely on each other to remain safe in the unforgiving environment that is beyond the kármán line, becoming a space-faring civilization we must cast aside the prejudice and politics that plague us on Earth. When the time comes, we will have to evolve beyond viewing ourselves as different from one another; the future will require us to work together to advance the human race beyond our stars. This is not some pipe dream, and it is something that can and will happen. We have already seen examples of this; the biggest is the construction and operation of the ISS in Low Earth Orbit. If countries can come together to build that, then we can overcome what is stopping us from embracing one another on the ground. I long for that day, but fear it may not be in my lifetime.
In the next couple of years, we will have an unparalleled change in human space flight. Later this year, Boeing’s Starliner capsule will be tested once again, and the Space Launch System that was designed to replace the Space Shuttle will have a test launch in November 2021. Space X is also in the process of developing its next big rocket, Starship, that is expected to open space travel to the masses. In addition, Blue Origin is currently working on its own new heavy-lift vehicle and moon lander. The chance to see humans once again walk on the face of the moon again is high. The next decade is going to an exciting time for those of us who still look at the stars and wonder about our place in the universe.