Are we seeing the convergence of a century of space science and science fiction before our eyes? Will Musk and SpaceX make 2001 Space Odyssey a reality? (Photo Credit: NASA, Apple, SpaceX, Tesla Motors, MGM, Paramount Pictures, Illustration Judy Schmidt)
In Kubricks and Clarks 2001 Space Odyssey, there was no question of Boots or Bots[ref]. The monolith had been left for humanity as a mileage and direction marker on Route 66 to the stars. So we went to Jupiter and Dave Bowman overcame a sentient machine, shut it down cold and went forth to discover the greatest story yet to be told.
Now Elon Musk, born three years after the great science fiction movie and one year before the last Apollo mission to the Moon has set his goals, is achieving milestones to lift humans beyond low-Earth orbit, beyond the bonds of Earths gravity and take us to the first stop in the final frontier Mars the destination of the SpaceX odyssey.
Marvel claims Musk as the inspiration for Tony Stark in Ironman but for countless space advocates around the World he is the embodiment of Dave Bowman, the astronaut in 2001 Space Odyssey destined to travel to the edge of the Universe and retire an old man on Mars. (Photo Credit: NASA, MGM, Paramount Pictures, Illustration Judy Schmidt)
Ask him whats next and nowhere on his bucket list does he have Disneyland or Disney World. You will find Falcon 9R, Falcon Heavy, Dragon Crew, Raptor Engine and Mars Colonization Transporter (MCT).
At the top of his working list is the continued clean launch record of the Falcon 9 and beside that must-have is the milestone of a soft landing of a Falcon 9 core. To reach this milestone, Elon Musk has an impressive array of successes and also failures necessary, to-be-expected and effectively of equal value. His plans for tomorrow are keeping us on the edge of our seats.
The Dragon Crew capsule is more than a modernized Apollo capsule. It will land softly and at least on Earth will be reusable while Musk and SpaceX dream of landing Falcon Crew on Mars. (Photo Credits: SpaceX)
CRS-5, the Cargo Resupply mission number 5, was an unadulterated success and to make it even better, Elons crew took another step towards the first soft landing of a Falcon core, even though it wasnt entirely successful. Elon explained that they ran out of hydaulic fluid. Additionally, there is a slew of telemetry that his engineers are analyzing to optimize the control software. Could it have been just a shortage of fluid? Yes, its possible they could extrapolate the performance that was cut short and recognize the landing Musk and crew dreamed of.
A successful failure of a soft landing had no baring on the successful launch of the CRS-5, the cargo resupply mission to ISS. (Image Credits: SpaceX)
The addition of the new grid fins to improve control both assured the observed level of success and also assured failure. Anytime one adds something unprovento a test vehicle, the risk of failure is raised. This was a fantastic failure that provided a treasure trove of new telemetry and the possibilities to optimize software. More hydraulic fluid is a must but improvements to SpaceX software is what will bring a repeatable string of Falcon core soft landings.