SpaceX Falcon 1

28 09 2008

SpaceX’s Falcon 1 became the first privately built space ship to orbit the Earth tonight, following in the footsteps of SpaceShipOne which became the first privately built spaceship to fly suborbitally in October 2004. One other thing they both have in common? All the people who said it was impossible.

The live webcast swung their cameras around and zoomed in on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s impromptu thank you speech to the dedicated employees who have worked countless hours over the long years to success. He was far away and had his back to the camera, but it made all the difference to share in that triumphant intimate moment.

“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” Musk said. Clearly buoyed by the huge win tonight, he also talked about their Falcon 9 rocket development program, “We are going to be taking over for the Space Shuttle when it retires.” You could hear the pride at the huge accomplishment of a U.S. company getting to the point where they could say that.

“A lot of people said this wasn’t possible I mean a lot…” Musk went on. SpaceX, like many innovators in the industry, have had a lot of naysaying to contend with. Before SpaceShipOne’s flight, the naysayers said it wasn’t possible, after it they dismissed the huge accomplishment as trivial that the real challenge was going orbital. You can expect them to do the same here. “Orbital space flight? I am still not impressed. It is just a little one engine rocket.” They will then move on to claiming that the Falcon 9 missions are impossible. My advice? Don’t listen.

Kudos to SpaceX for having the audacity to webcast all of their launches live, for believing in transparency, for sharing their successes and failures and every step along the way with us. It makes your success our success.

One other thing I love about Elon is that he is unapologetically committed to lowering the cost of launch not just for the fun of it or for the profit of it but for the impact of it. He made his millions at a young age and had the problem of figuring out what would now be the best use of his time, his talent and his wealth. He chose space. His notion was that the long term future of humanity depended on it. Some call it not keeping all your eggs in one basket. Elon, the consummate computer techie, calls it “backing up the biosphere.”

Either way we are one giant leap closer to that dream and that future tonight.

Thank you Elon for being willing to stand up against all that said it was impossible and thank you most of all for your commitment to never giving up.


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