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Failed Launch Still Provides Learning Experience

by Chris Kerber / St. Louis Blues

I am not exactly sure what to say right now but you can sense and feel the disappointment for all those involved with today’s launch, especially Space X. We started today with a view of the launch site at 2 AM. It was a very peaceful, serene site and powerful to see. When the sun came up, there was barely a cloud in the sky and all looked good. There was so much confidence from those involved and I even asked Hans Koenigsmann, Space X’s Vice President of Mission Assurance, at one press conference about his anxiety level. He said he has been involved in so many launches that his blood pressure is real good and he’s very calm. The launch looked spectacular from our vantage point, a clear view, 4 miles away along the Banana River.

Behind us was a speaker with the audio from launch control. What we heard was from NASA however, the launch control was all Space X. All looked good and right after T plus 2 minutes, it was announced the craft was 32 kilometers up traveling at 1 km/hr. I was not shooting pictures or filming. We had enough people in our group doing that. I wanted to watch and did through my binoculars. I could see the explosion yet it was far enough away we really didn’t hear it. A few moments after what looked like an explosion, we heard there has been a craft failure through the speakers. For everyone’s safety, we quickly got back on the bus and headed to the press site.

I have only been here two days. In that time, we learned about many of the key aspects of this mission from the Hololens, to the International Docking Adapter, to biological science, and even experiments worked on for a year from students. This was a big mission in terms of the IDA and advancing the ISS to be able to dock with many types of vehicles. The Hololens could be a key piece to efficient work among other things on the continued striving for Mars. They were also trying to land the rocket on a barge for continued re-use. There was so much. It was awe-inspiring to learn just a fragment in two days. It’s hard for me to fathom what those with so much invested (personally, time, capital, effort and more) could be thinking or feeling. While this was unmanned, which is great, it still carries the weight of failure with a far-reaching impact.

I’m a Dad. My heart goes out to a group of Eighth Graders at Bell Middle School in Colorado who spent a year as a group working every aspect of an experiment carried on today’s craft. It’s not the first time something like this has happened, it won’t be the last, and it’s a hell of a lesson to learn. But that does not take away the heartache and disappointment they must feel. The two students represented their classmates and school with such poise, confidence, and excitement. I hope they get a second chance to see it through.

Well I said it at the beginning of Day 1…

”The one thing that always seems to capture the imagination of everyone is Space. The reason is simple. Despite the advances in exploration and the almost ridiculous “ho-hum” feel that we once put men on the moon, it remains the most expansive unknown of what is out there. It is so unknown, even though we think we know a lot, that it is truly up to the imagination of what exists, and what it means.”

On Day 1 of our NASASocial experience, Koenigsmann said we learn from each aspect. They’ll learn from this one and I can only imagine the drive for bigger and better will grow even stronger. We’ll learn more from the upcoming press conference and a new launch of some sort will be to take supplies to the ISS.

We are back to a real learning time in Space exploration. The commercial aspect will continue to grow and become more and more important to the future of space science and exploration. NASA will continue to develop the needs for a mission to Mars. We have a satellite approaching Pluto. A former astronaut, Chris Ferguson talked to us and compared where we are with Space travel to where airplanes were 100 years ago. It’s a good analogy.

Here’s what I can tell you: The idea of sending anything into space can still capture the imagination of anyone. This experience with NASASocial has been eye opening and a real privilege to be a part of. I applaud NASA’s vision to do these and hope you all get a chance to experience one. Take the chance. Apply for one and go watch, learn and dream. It’s worth every moment.

Thanks for reading…..

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