Rockets soared at our school, on April 30th –the same day news broke of China’s plans to test a reusable launch vehicle, the ‘Long March 8.’ STEAM night was quite an experience, six years since we began on this journey.
Ours too were reusable, but they were built by students from Kindergarten upwards. Made of paper, drinking straws, Popsicle sticks, and rubber bands they traveled where no rocket had gone before on the basketball court. (One flew way out of our test range, covering 70 feet!) Most were powered by rubber bands. Some preferred to use wind power – blowing them out of the launch tube! The judges were quite impressed. Said Orbital ATK engineer, Monique Dalton of one model:
While most rockets flew pretty flat and straight, this one showed a curve visible to the naked eye of the sort of trajectory rockets take in space. It was as if this rocket really was on a mission delivering a payload.
This student’s rocket traveled 58 feet, 7 inches.
Meanwhile, SpaceX, is looking for ways to go beyond ‘reusable’ into mass production of rockets, just like GM does cars. Some day one of these kids will be in Mission Control –and I’m going to watch it from my rocking chair!
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A red sports car, a rocket and a trip to Mars. Many generations from now that’s what some might consider the birth of the new space age.
Last afternoon’s liftoff of ‘Falcon Heavy‘ – the largest rocket by far to be launched –by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, was by all accounts, a spectacular event combining science, savvy marketing, and enough material to get the attention of many audiences: Space geeks, Tesla enthusiasts, the international space community…and Mars watchers. Nothing like a live stream of the event, that included the dummy’s view from the Tesla roadster!
From a marketing perspective, think of it a a relaunch of three brands:
SpaceX: The ambitious company is not just a record holder of the biggest, baddest rocket with a retrievable booster (one didn’t land successfully), but an international ‘agency’ in itself. It can carry a spaceship – one taking humans back to the Moon, and later to Mars.
Tesla: Imagine the opportunities, to sell car that has the pedigree of the first car in space…Fascinating backdrop to an otherwise boring auto industry.
Elon Musk himself. Perhaps –just perhaps– he may have a bigger agenda in positioning himself as more than an entrepreneur.
Jeff Bezos was once known for books, when Amazon was the world’s largest online book store. That was in 1994.
He had been recently investing in robotics, and also acquired Whole Foods. But flying under the radar has been his space company, Blue Origin, building and testing rockets. It is what they call a rocket system, with a reusable, stage-one booster. It can take up to 100,000 pounds into space. This Apollo-sized rocket (much taller the Falcon rockets from SpaceX) is one of the few contenders in the space tourism business. Possibly a moon landing soon!
It may be a space race, but Bezos is taking it slow for now, to get it right.
The Dragon capsule delivered several technologies and experiments (6,4000 pounds of it) to the International Space Station. But it also delivered ice cream to the astronauts on board. So what’s a few scoops, for those folks who travel at 17,000 miles an hour for several months!
Also, in a geeky twist, it is also delivering another flavor, so to speak: ‘ISS-CREAM‘ – the acronym for ISS Cosmic Ray Energetics And Mass. It is a balloon-borne instrument that “measures the charges of cosmic rays ranging from hydrogen up through iron nuclei, over a broad energy range.” Clear as mud. (a balloon carrying ISS-CREAM) But very cool, huh?
As for the docking, as I mentioned in a previous post about the robotic arm and the maneuver, it is pretty cool! Humans need robots – and some ice cream now and then.
We like to imagine that space travel will one day be managed and dominated by robots. Yet there is plenty of reasons why humans will not be obsolete.
I spotted some clues to this in the latest report of the SpaceX docking of the Dragon capsule with the Space Station.
The report reads:
At that point, astronauts will grapple Dragon using the station’s huge robotic arm, securing the freighter. When the hatches between the two vehicles open, ISS crewmembers will begin offloading the capsule’s cargo, which consists of more than 6,400 lbs. (2,900 kilograms) of food, supplies and scientific hardware.
Indeed, although it involves a robotic device, humans must snag (‘grapple’) the capsule in a way sounds a lot like human expertise involved in bringing a ship to harbor using rope and bollards. It is sometimes noted that self check-out lanes in stores have not made human cashiers obsolete.
The point being, careers in robotics will grow in tandem with some of these technologies. The field of robotics will need –indeed depend on — human expertise in dealing with complexity.