Enter the Dragon

It’s been a long road since 2004, when Space Ship One made its second, prize-winning voyage. Today, astronauts from the International Space Station got to tour the world’s first successful private spacecraft, the Dragon. It’s the first time a non-government vessel has docked with the ISS, and it brought lots of non-essential supplies. Why non-essential? Because nobody was 100% sure the craft would make it.

Dragon also brought James Doohan’s ashes.

This excerpt from the AP confused me, however:

The space station has been relying on Russian, Japanese and European cargo ships for supplies ever since the shuttles retired. None of those, however, can bring anything of value back; they’re simply loaded with trash and burn up in the atmosphere.

By contrast, the Dragon is designed to safely re-enter the atmosphere, parachuting into the ocean like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules did back in the 1960s. Assuming all goes well Friday, the space station’s six-man crew will release the Dragon next Thursday after filling it with science experiments and equipment.

What? How are we getting astronauts and cosmonauts down from the ISS then? Surely that’s not a one-way trip!

It’s tempting to talk about how this is a great example of private industry doing a job that government used to do. However, Dragon did take off from Cape Canaveral, a big federal government run “space station” as opposed to the (unfinished, mostly state taxpayer funded) Spaceport America in New Mexico.

There are private airports; will there ever be private spaceports?

In Closing: Income inequality in the Roman Empire; 50 years of fire; death by foreclosure (I still don’t know how this could possibly happen — nobody trashed out or did inspections??); and have a great, safe Memorial Day Weekend.

One thought on “Enter the Dragon”

  1. The article about the cargo craft is correct. The Russian cargo craft, the Progress spacecraft, are not equipped with heat shields and cannot survive a re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

    Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts fly to and from the ISS in Soyuz space capsules, which do have heat shields, of course. The Progress craft, in essence, are man de-rated Soyuz capsules. Since they weren’t designed to come back, why add the weight and expense of heat shielding.

    The Dragon capsules were designed to be eventually man-rated. Since they can be recovered, NASA is doing so.

    On another note, we, the taxpayers, paid for what Space-X is doing. The difference between a Constellation capsule (if NASA ever flies them) and a Dragon capsule is who is managing the project. Either way, defense contractors build the damn things and we pay for them.

    So color me slightly less than impressed.

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