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Yearly archives "2017"

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OPINION: SpaceX – realistic announcement or unattainable timeline?

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy lifts off the pad in this artist’s depiction. Image credit: SpaceX

After SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted there would be a SpaceX announcement at 4pm EST (1pm PST) on February 27, 2017, speculation had run rampant. Was it an unveiling of the company’s spacesuit? Perhaps it was news about the Falcon Heavy. Or, maybe, it was something as fanciful as their ITS rocket.

Nope. All wrong.

In a release on the SpaceX website, the company announced they were going to fly two private citizens on a circumlunar trip. That’s right — the company that has yet to launch a single person to low Earth orbit (LEO) contends that it will be ready to send a pair of paying customers on a free-return trajectory around the Moon and then safely return to Earth. In 2018. On a rocket that has never been launched. With a spacecraft that has never been to space.

One may get the sense that I’m somewhat skeptical this will happen. If that’s what you’ve inferred from what I’ve already written, let me make sure I state this plainly: It’s. Not. Going. To. Happen. In. 2018.

SpaceX in general, and Musk in particular, has a well-earned reputation of missed timelines and over-promising things. Take the Falcon Heavy, for instance. It was supposed to launch in 2012 or 2013.

I have a few concerns about this mission and how SpaceX plans to address them. Off the top of my head:

  • Deep space navigation.
  • Communications.
  • Radiation shielding.
  • Life support.
  • Will it have crew in addition to the tourists?

I’m not necessarily saying that it’s impossible for SpaceX to send crew around the Moon and return them safely. Maybe SpaceX can pull off the improbable…but I don’t think so. Until the company can successfully launch the Falcon Heavy…and launch and recover astronauts to and from to the International Space Station, I will remain highly skeptical.

REVIEW: Amazing Stories of the Space Age

I was recently asked if I’d be interested in reviewing a space-related book — Amazing Stories of the Space Age by Rod Pyle — and I jumped at the opportunity. I love to read, and with it being a book about space, I couldn’t say no.

Indeed, with a subtitle stating: “True tales of Nazis in orbit, soldiers on the moon, orphaned Martian robots, and other fascinating accounts from the annals of spaceflight,” I was grabbed from the get-go.

Though I was familiar with most, if not all, of the topics Pyle explores, I must admit that even an old space nerd like me still learned quite a lot of new information. Even with Pyle covering an array of topics, he doesn’t leave out details for the sake of telling a quick story — every subject is brimming with information.

Not content to simply cover programs which actually came to fruition, Pyle occasionally strays into the “what ifs” of projects that, had they made it off the drawing board and into orbit, the modern world could be markedly different.

Part science fiction and part historical fact, Amazing Stories of the Space Age is a well-written and heavily-researched collection of stories, spanning spacefaring’s earliest days through the United States’s Space Shuttle program, and a variety of programs in-between. Highly recommended.