Sunday will see SpaceX, the private space flight company, launch another Dragon capsule, this time carrying supplies and student experiments to the International Space Station.
At the moment the weather is split, 60% good, but if things clear up and the Falcon rocket can get off the ground then CEO and billionaire
Tony Stark Elon Musk will have the satisfaction of seeing his craft improve upon the test flight that happened in May.
Ahead of the launch, Musk and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, just had a chat on a Google hangout. They talked about the forthcoming event and answered a few questions from SpaceX fans over Twitter and Google Plus.
It’s no secret that Musk wants to put a human on Mars within 12-15 years. He must feel very strongly about taking humanity to the ‘red planet’ if he’s sinking this much money into the work. He outlined this in the chat saying, “My hope is that Mars will become the new world, in the way that the United States was. That would be an incredibly exciting adventure.”
When asked about the differences between the last Dragon mission and this one, Musk explained that here have been slight changes in software for thermal imaging and other areas while work has been done with NASA to refine the approach to the station.
The overall aim of commercialising space is so that there can be useful advances to humanity. Now we seem to be able to get people up – the question is what is best to do up there. One plan outlined by Bolden was to put refuelling stations on the moon and asteroids so that people can travel even further.
Bolden also pointed out that current missions to Mars are based around collecting some sample to work out how useful things can be made on the planet. If there are resources already there for building, this would help with the weight of vessels and need to transport materials to Mars to set up any sort of settlement. “We’re hopeful of long-term stays there,” he said.
Musk outlined the future of the Dragon capsule missions. He hopes that once he has managed to get the vessel to the ISS and back, that it will be possible to do orbital flights with people on board within three or four years and then to transport astronauts to the ISS.
The pair also discussed the difficulties facing future commercial space flight. Progress needs to be made on fuels and propulsion as well as making vessels both tougher and lighter. There’s clearly a great deal of very expensive work to do.
Bolden pointed out, “We talk about collaboration in going beyond low Earth orbit. We’re both focused on getting to low earth orbit successfully. Then we can turn our vision to flight beyond this.”
Ever sensible Musk was asked if he would like to take the journey up to the ISS, but admitted that he had other work to do. “I would love to go to the space station,” he said. “I have to resist the temptation to be the CEO and test pilot, but I really want to go.”
One of the more amusing questions from the public was, ‘Is there anything fun or special aboard Dragon?’ To which after years of work and investment Musk replied, “There are things that are special and fun but no big wheel of cheese.”
Bolder pointed out that 23 student experiments are going to space. That should indeed be a special cargo. Getting people involved in the space race other than with just their enthusiasm is not easy, but hopefully getting kids’ work into space will also help to inspire them to follow careers in STEM.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Musk to revolutionise the space transportation industry and with the hope of taking people to live on other planets. The launch opportunity is currently set for 2035 ET with backup launch opportunities on the 8th and 9th. As a night launch it is likely to be spectacular.
If you want to catch the action but you’re not in Florida already holding tickets to get into Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, you can always see how it goes via NASA TV.