Friday, March 24, 2006

What a thrill! How disappointing!

This afternoon at 2:30 PM Pacific Time the Falcon 1 rocket successfully lifted off from it's launch pad at SpaceX's Kwajalein launch site on Omelek Island. This is the first commercial / private venture to get payloads into LEO (low earth orbit) this year and higher over the coming years. I opened my browser at 5:00 PM to monitor the webcast and tried to concentrate on work while I listened to the microphone chatter from 'mission control' in the background. I didn't want to miss the 5:30 PM launch. I was nervous. As they counted down the last few seconds my heart-beat increased making me wonder what this lucky bunch of entrepreneurs must be feeling. Lift-off was right on time! The webcast cut from a ground-based camera to one mounted inside the vehicle looking down through a glass portal. When the webcast failed seconds into the launch it seemed as if all was going well. I later learned that the launch vehicle and payload were lost. What a disappointment. Rocket science is not easy. My excitement stemmed, not form the launch itself but from the fact that a private individual, the founder of PayPal, who started a company to put civilians in the space business was launching his first rocket. Of course it takes a team to make this happen but nothing would have happened without his vision and a cool $100 million of his fortune. In the end I remain elated. Way-to-go Elon!

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