Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Elon Musk just kicked ass

I feel a glimmer of something I haven't had in a while: hope.

Maybe not all that much of it, but it's there.

Today, Elon Musk's private space firm, SpaceX, launched its Falcon Heavy rocket.

Why is that significant? A few reasons:

-Falcon Heavy is the largest rocket since the space shuttle system. SpaceX, not NASA, not the ESA, not the Russians, now has the world's largest rocket. It is the most capable heavy launch vehicle available.

-The two solid rocket boosters on Falcon Heavy separate and return to ground in a controlled vertical landing. In the test launch today, these rocket boosters landed simultaneously in what looks like a special effect, but it's all quite real. Perhaps you have not seen the footage.

-This is another step towards launching heavy payloads to Mars. Because...

-Falcon Heavy launched a car into space. Seriously. In a milestone in transportation history, Elon Musk launched a car into space. His car. Yes, for the test payload, Musk elected to place his Tesla Roadster, from his own electric car company, at the top of the rocket. The car (pictured above as tweeted by Elon Musk) is now headed into interplanetary space on a trajectory for Mars' orbit. At the wheel of the car is a robot. David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is playing on the sound system on repeat until the battery drains.


This really is inspiring to me. In the past year, I've begun to think that nothing can ever overcome systems and stupid. Behemoth, monolithic, governing entities reach critical mass and take on lives of their own. You feel small and powerless by comparison, particularly if possessed of excessive amounts of lenity. These monoliths don't care about what's right. For example, they slash any progress towards clean energy like solar or wind. They belittle and dismiss space projects such as Musk's as frivolous and not worth the cost, while others cry that SpaceX wastes time while poverty and homelessness exist (implying a false choice that space travel and social justice are mutually exclusive endeavors).

Then there's stupid, which serves as the monolith's foundation. These are the worst form of UFO conspiracy theorists who no doubt are nitpicking the SpaceX video of the Tesla, measuring light sources in search of "evidence" that the whole launch was faked and this is all a ruse to distract us from the fact that NASA is covering up their possession of alien magnetohydrodynamic propulsion. The Flat Earthers will say it's "fake news" because there's a spherical Earth in the photo.

None of that will stop human innovation. It may slow it down, but it can't stop it. A man like Elon Musk has the vision to see past those limitations, no matter how formidable they may be, and still see what's possible.

Despite all the failures (Musk himself saw a 50/50 chance the rocket would explode today and of course there have been many other losses in space travel), despite all the obstacles, it can still be done.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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