At 4:33 pm ET today, Elon Musk’s SpaceX will send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station in its Crew Dragon spacecraft.
It will begin its journey with a SpaceX Merlin engine-powered Falcon 9 rocket launch from Pad 39A on the Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Watch NASA’s live stream here:
This is a major milestone in human history, the first commercial space flight with people on it. Forbes called SpaceX’s brilliant caper “One Giant Leap For Space Capitalism .”
It’s also a national milestone, the first time since 2011 that American astronauts have gone to space from American soil .
There hasn’t been a Space Race for the past decade. Or it would appear that way. The U.S. sat out manned space missions while Russia and China carried out dozens of them .
Donald Trump has talked a big game about space. He claims to have created the Space Force in 2019. But all he did was slap the Star Trek logo on the already-existing Air Force Space Command . It’s been around since 1982 .
Meanwhile, Elon Musk and SpaceX are sending Americans to space again.
Not only are the privately-owned Crew Dragon spaceship and Falcon 9 rocket more capable than the defunct NASA Shuttle program, but they’re also reusable and more cost-efficient.
When SpaceX’s Crew Dragon takes off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, its two-man crew will enjoy a level of safety space shuttle astronauts could only dream about: an abort system designed to detect an impending booster malfunction and automatically propel the capsule to safety at any point from the pad to orbit.
Here’s footage from a 2015 SpaceX pad abort test:
Of course, Wednesday’s momentous spaceship launch isn’t only the work of private capital in the hands of capable business people, engineers, and mechanics.
Elon Musk built SpaceX to cater to NASA as its number one client. Nearly all of its launch contracts are from NASA or the Department of Defense .
And to whatever extent Donald Trump gets credit for it, his White House has continued to award SpaceX contracts at the pace of his predecessors Obama and Bush.
There doesn’t seem to be any rivalry between Elon Musk and Donald Trump. At Davos this year, Trump did say of Musk,
He does good at rockets.
But the glory today belongs most of all to the engineers who design all of this – and the astronauts who risk their lives to operate it.
Politicians always want to stamp their name on everything, but engineers are the unsung heroes of our civilization.