SpaceX launches two men up above us a bit

I’ve just been watching the launch of the SpaceX/NASA manned rocket that is the first time people have been launched into Earth orbit from the US since the shuttle programme ended in 2011.

After a few minutes the rocket, minor the largest stage that had successfully landed off the coast of Ireland, was orbiting Earth at 200 km and travelling at 27,000 kilometres an hour.

The capsule is now heading on a 19 hour trip to the Space Station.

“This is a historical day”. “A day for the history books”. “America is back”.

This is a big achievement. Any successful launch of people into Earth orbit is a big achievement.

But it shows how much rocket and expense is required to get a couple of people floating around our own planet. There are plans to get back to the moon again by 2024. There is talk of getting manned missions to Mars some time in the future.

And this is fifty years on from the original moon missions.

I happened to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey for the first time a couple of nights ago. That was from the 60s, before the first successful moon missions. It had large moon bases, and huge spacecraft travelling to Jupiter in 2001. But we are still nowhere near this.

It’s a big deal getting a small capsule just up above us a bit. They (US and Russia) gradually built up the Space station, but that’s only in Earth orbit.

It takes about 3 days to travel to the moon.

It takes 6-8 months to travel to Mars.

Fifty, seventy years after Mount Everest was first climbed there are lines of people queuing up to get to the top of the mountain each year,

The US had their original space flight missions, followed fairly quickly by their Apollo moon missions that began in 1961, made it with men to the moon in July 1969, and then continued with five more successful missions until 1972.

The Space Shuttle programme began in 1982 and continued until 2011, but that was only for earth orbit missions and the Space Station.

So this new phase, fifty years after the moon landing, is just a new beginning of significant but relatively modest space flight achievement.

Minor space flight seems to be almost at the limits of our technology and human ability. What has been done is marvellous, but by today’s standards quite modest.

Space flight science looks like mostly remaining fiction.