1:55 am (4:55 EDT) has come and gone, and I’m still holding my breath. I’ve been holding it all day Friday, actually, as I’m sure everyone at SpaceX has been doing, afraid to exhale. While I’m writing these words, I’m tuned in to a live webcast on Space.com, listening to the status reports, and waiting.
What are we waiting for? If you haven’t been watching – we’re waiting for the first launch of a private rocket propelling a private module into space, to be hooked up with the International Space Station (ISS). This is the first attempt to take on NASA’s challenge, aiming to hand over traffic to and from ISS to commercial enterprises.
This is, though, a much lonelier experience, than witnessed on July 20th, 1969. Back then, the entire population of the world, who owned a TV at the time (well, not that many, but still millions of people) tuned in. If you want to get the feel for the world’s excitement about the Apollo 11 launch to the moon 43 years ago, you should watch the great, funny movie ‘The Dish‘. You’ll get a feel for how history was made, from the point of view of those who were in charge of broadcasting that event.
There were many missions to space afterwards, and obviously there’s no real comparison here. ISS is much closer than the moon, and there are no people risking their lives in the capsule launch tonight (night time for me – for the folks in Florida it really is tomorrow morning). So for most people this is not big news. But it is still a significant event, and I, for one, want to watch it. In real-time.
So I don’t care that even though I mentioned this to several people today, no one expressed significant interest in watching this. Alone at night, I wait to see a private enterprise shoot for the stars.
They have just announced that the window of opportunity is closed, and the launch will have to be attempted again in 3 days. I’m exhaling now, and we’ll just have to do this again on Tuesday.
Update: Tuesday May 22, 2012 12:44 am PDT
Congratulations, SpaceX! Awesome liftoff.
Update: Friday May 25, 2012 9:02 am PDT
Like ISS astronaut Don Pettit’s words: “Houston, Station, it looks like we’ve got us a dragon by the tail.” And like Musk using the same words: “Just awesome.” Following great videos and pictures of the Dragon capsule captured by ISS and hooked up to its Harmony module. See pics on one of my favorite sites: Cosmic Log on MSNBC, Space.com or NASA’s dedicated page.