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SpaceX Crew Dragon Docks with International Space Station (bloomberg.com)
755 points by lultimouomo on Mar 3, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 264 comments

Congratulations to the team at SpaceX!

They are opening the hatch right now on the stream if anyone here wants to watch along https://youtu.be/21X5lGlDOfg

Here's the recording of the space station astronauts / cosmonaut entering the "Crew Dragon".


Very nice!

I really hoped they would hide a rubber face hugger next to Ripley, but I doubt it. Such a missed opportunity.

If I were those guys up there, I would check the chest cavity, just to be sure..

Fantastic, very impressive.

But somewhere inside (my little star-wars/trek spirit), I wish that it was not so tricky. That we all could just travel and explore the universe.

Everybody always talk about how difficult it is in space and how much better earth is. Wish the debate would be more about all the possibilities in space or on other planets. What can we do with zero gravity? For all the bad things with living on Mars, could there be some amazing benefits, new materials and so on..

The first commercial space manufacturing application is likely to be ZBLAN, a super pure fiber optic. When made in microgravity it has superior optical properties. It's extremely expensive, $450k to $1m per kg.



Navigating the open seas used to be tricky. Settling new land used to be tricky. Have faith. :)

There used to be a time when a single person mastered X% of humanity's technology anf knowledge.

Packing up 100 people on some boats meant you could start a viable colony across some seas.

Can you still do that today?

Now we can keep X% of the knowledge of humanity on a portable device. That should help.

A lot of human knowledge cannot be written down and has to be passed on person to person. There isn't enough bandwidth in a book to actually convey a lot of it.

Machining is one instance of this. You basically have to have somebody show you how to do some of it. Same thing with forging.

(At least in my experience)

The difference between the most detailed written instructions and apprenticeship / personal instruction is instant expert feedback. Skills transfer can happen much faster when the loop is closed.

Not necessarily needs to be written down. Video is also possible.

The examples you cited can be written down and they don't have to be taught in person. You could instruct somebody to do these without being present in person. I'm sure there are reasons that's not the way it's taught primarily, but you've not convinced me it's fundamentally impossible.

You don't need a complex example. Your first language is something that can only be taught by people who are alive. Even if there is a comprehensive textbook that teaches all languages you still have to learn your first language to read the book.

Good thing we'll have AR tutorials!

What percentage of humanity's knowledge is available to be put on a portable device? A lot is behind paywalls or other copyright encumbrance.

Archivists and copyright warriors of today will be the digital heroes of tomorrow.

A great exploration of this is the 'side plot' in the videogame Subnautica.

Unless that device breaks? What hardware that we have today will still work in 100 years?

Books you can make it happen. Phones are broke within 10. Desktops within 20.

We’re perfectly capable of building electronics that can run for many tens of years without issue… it’s just that such things don’t get built because that’s not profitable for manufacturers. If an organization like NASA puts in an order for computers or handheld devices specifically designed to not break for long stretches of time, it wouldn’t be a problem to fulfill said order.

This is why I have such little respect for billionaires who leave no long-lasting meaningful impact at all.

Gates/Musk may be the only ones who appear to desire to have a many-generational-positive impact on Humanity.

Every one else are just egos.

Unless I am not aware of some of the greater things that ilk is doing?

You mention billionaires and then list off new money entrepreneurs. Don’t conflate the two. There are jobless people born into billion dollar family dynasties that do absolutely nothing for humanity. They hide and live out their lives entirely for them.

What are _you_ doing to leave a long-lasting meaningful impact? Billionaires are people too, just with more money. Having money doesn't make you "just ego".

Bezos wants to turn space technologies into commodities with the hope it will transform (create) the industry.

ASCII on Punched tape, easy. Standard format, readable at whatever rate you like

UTF-8 on vinyl record, with square dot pitch, readable as fast as possible.

We can send a new one over long-distance internet (to travel alongside the ship, if it's going light-speed).

The technology is not the phone. The phone is essentially the dumb terminal.

Colonies don't subsist in isolation, they require trade to survive. See Jared Diamond's Collapse for the pop science version of what happened to a few isolated colonies (Greenland, Easter Island, etc) when trade stops.

What happened in the past in very different circumstances won't be all that informative. Differences in education, environment, technological requirements and capacities, different world-views, different superstitions, native populations (or lack thereof), medical practices, air gravity and radiation.

Moreover, colony is a soft boundary word. I daresay that the United States (former European, now independent Colony) could survive without external trade if it came to that..what would it take for a colony on another planet to be self-sufficient? Minimally, the ability to produce items required for survival (e.g., airtight living quarters and vegetable gardens, energy, oxygen, etc).

Trade is required when the materials of subsistence cannot all be produced locally.

A successful mars colony would need to have a plan to reach self-sufficiency through Martian plus asteroid resources.

> A successful mars colony would need to have a plan to reach self-sufficiency through Martian plus asteroid resources.

Not at all. While there will be an economic and logistical incentive to reduce the dependence on imports from earth, it is not reasonable to expect the colony to fully duplicate the manufacturing capabilities of earth. There will be drugs, electronic components and human experts that will imported from earth for a very long time.

I believe a Martian colony would be successful when they achieve economic viability (import value lower than export value). This would happen well before they would reach actual self sufficiency.

it is not reasonable to expect the colony to fully duplicate the manufacturing capabilities of earth. There will be drugs, electronic components and human experts that will imported from earth for a very long time.

Aren't there former colonies of western empires that now produce their own drugs, electronic components, and human experts? Granted, it's a bit more difficult because it requires first building the life support infrastructure or the world, whereas colonies on Earth have their life support for free. However, Mars has geologic processes that produce minerals, and people have already mapped out the chemical processes that could be conducted with in-situ resources, all the way up to production of feedstocks for making plastics like ethylene. (Also done for Venus.)

I believe a Martian colony would be successful when they achieve economic viability (import value lower than export value). This would happen well before they would reach actual self sufficiency.

There are political reasons for self sufficiency, which can warp the market a bit.

I don't think any country on earth is currently wholey self sufficient due to the nature of globalism. Nobody can cut off all exports without losing access to some necessary components or materials. A colony on Mars would have higher and more advanced needs to support and protect human life.

A colony on Mars would have higher and more advanced needs to support and protect human life.

This is mostly false and slightly true. The level of technology needed to imperfectly supply the bulk of life support needs isn't that high. Pressurized, radiation shielded homes could be built by making bricks, building structures out of masonry arches, sealing them with an airtight liner, then burying them. The chemistry for extracting breathing gasses and plastics feed-stocks out of the atmosphere dates from the industrial revolution and 20th century. Mars is much more likely to be dependent on Earth for products like microprocessors for far longer than environmental needs.

Completely balancing and stabilizing artificial ecosystems to be 100% self sustaining and recycling might take many decades. However, the elements and materials needed are all available as inputs from sources outside of the Earth.

What products would a martian colony produce that are worth transport costs? Even taking into account you only need to pay for the return trip, because the earth-mars leg is payed for by imports anyway.

Data has much more favorable transport costs, but there is only so much valuable data on Mars. Especially since astronomy isn't really a free market. There might be resources on Mars that are rare enough on Earth to be worth it. I'd be interested in hearing more on those.

It seems to me like the main value of a Mars colony (human exploration, achievement, and insurance against planetary wipe-out) are abstract, and can't be exported in any real sense.

I don't think any imports from Mars could be profitable. Except scientific data, of course. The colony will depend on Earth tech for a long time.

The only case for a self-sustained colony I see is some local political extremism. To prefer to live on Mars by one's own means would take some very strong Earth-incompatible views.

The chance of a colony on Mars NOT seeking independence when it reaches a modicum of self-sufficiency is nil. Look at the US; separated by 6-12 weeks of sailing. It's human nature to seek to govern your own affairs, and with travel time to Mars being around 300 days, as soon as they can, they'll become independent.

I don't know. Look at Canada; separated by the same distance yet it remained a colony until 1931.

While rebellious space colonies has been a dependable sci-fi trope since the 50's, I am skeptical things would really work out that way given how dependent Mars would be on Earth for everything other than the very basics of self-sufficiency. I am talking about things like art (music, books, films) and the kinds of developments in science, medicine and engineering that can only be generated by having a support base of 8 billion people.

I think it also depends on what flag the Mars colony flies. If a country (e.g. the U.S) claims the colony for themselves, I think it makes sense that there will be more and more pressure to disassociate especially as people from different countries on Earth mix together. I can see a united colony, however, something like the ISS, working better as there is the cultural idea of being "for humanity" as opposed to "for this country that not everybody identifies with".

Sports, gameshows etc. that rely on the low gravity seem plausible. Pretty unlikely to sustain an economy, though.

Tourism and some healthcare likewise, but that's not really an import.

The one import from Mars that might be profitable does not come from Mars: resources mined from asteroids. Mars is closer to it (and in a shallower gravity well than Earth), so if for whatever reason we want people closer to asteroid mining operations, that might be a viable niche for Mars.

That's very speculative, though. Asteroid mining is probably going to be entirely robots, and both supply of those robots and the demand for the resources are almost entire based on Earth, so it's very questionable a Mars colony will add any value there. But it's the one area where I can see the possibility.

A refueling station on Deimos, however, sounds like a much more interesting prospect.

The Enterprise theme started playing in my head.

Did you notice how they slightly jazzed it up after a couple of seasons?

The last 2 seasons are pretty great. It's too bad the show got sacked. Enterprise is my second favorite behind TNG.

There are at least several of us!

Also have found myself really enjoying enterprise. It is by far my favorite premise of any of the Star Treks.

Did u try the expanse?

One thing I never thought about with the intro is that, at the time it was produced, the ISS didn't look like how they represent it, but now it does look pretty close to it. They must have gotten some idea from NASA of how it would probably turn out to look.

They used the original plans and artist drawings for Freedom which became the basis of the ISS for the intro, the ISS was about half way with being completed when Enteeprise got pull off the air and when it first aired the ISS had only 3 modules.

But all the industrial scale processes we use require gravity, plenty of liquid water or solvents and a LOT of other infrastructure in place. Sure, you could pack up some tools in 10 ships 500 years ago and could start a colony in a hospitable part of Earth.

I'm convinced you cannot bootstrap a colony in an unhospitable place in the Solar System without ships 3-4 orders of magnitude above what we have today.

If the BFR/Starship works as well as Musk envisions, it will be near 3 orders of magnitude better than current launch system.

For example, it will carry substantially larger payloads than the SLS, at less than 100th the cost per launch ($15M vs $3B), and launch almost daily, vs twice a year. The Shuttle flew every couple months, at a payload cost of over $30,000/lb, vs under $100/lb for the BFR.

Now I don’t think the first versions of the BFR will achieve those goals, but the crazy part is they are achievable. Reusability drives costs rapidly down towards to the cost of fuel, which is under $1M per launch.

The problem Elon faces is refurbishment costs. It seems premature to think that the BFR and Starship can fly ten flights with only minor refurbishment, and fly one hundred times before replacement. But the benefits of reuse are so huge that even if they fly only ten times each launch costs can be less than a Falcon 9.

That's because it's the only way we currently know. I'm no materials scientist, but how many novel methods of making materials in microgravity will we discover in the next few decades? Or new, better materials.

It's all conjecture obviously. The point is that we probably don't need to carry all our heavy tools and infrastructure up there- we just need to find new (hopefully better) ways of creating the stuff we need.

This is why I like the idea of building a spinning station in orbit and wrangling asteroids into orbit for mining and refining. Simulating a full Earth gravity in space would allow using existing industrial processes and allow humans to work there indefinitely without physical deterioration.

To address the things you raise directly: Mars has gravity, and if you have plenty of energy to melt it, it has plenty of water. Nuclear power can supply plenty of energy.

Advancement follows the money. And money does not yet follow neocortex/new brain. Otherwise it is possible to explore and live permanently in space. Treat yourself to some Isaac Arthur to taste some of the space future as you wait evolution to catch up: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZFipeZtQM5CKUjx6grh54g

Right now we need to terminate manned missions at some destination (like Mars or the ISS) so we can follow up with supplies. Everything we learn figuring out how to keep humans alive on the eventual Mars trips will help us send humans on more exploratory, less mapped out, trips to asteroids, etc, in the future. Hopefully within some of our lifetimes.

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and space would look like Walmart.

I honestly don’t see any benefits to living on Mars until every inch of space on Earth is used up. Everything about living on Mars is hostile to life. Doing anything there like mining and manufacturing will be orders of magnitude more difficult and for what? To say we are somewhere else that looks like the Atacama but infinitely more difficult to get to? It seems silly to be trying to rush to a place that wants to kill you when we have a great place here already that we could just stop messing up.

If we all wait to start anything in Mars when it is too late for our planet, well... humans won’t be around anymore.

Think about Mars as redundancy site for the human race.

It only counts as a redundancy site if the colony could survive without Earth. What's the minimum Martian colony size that's self sufficient? Self sufficient doesn't just mean the ability to create sufficient food, water, air, shelter, sewage, etc but the ability to recreate all of the necessary machinery starting only from your initial supplies and undeveloped Martian natural resources.

So many of the industrial processes that we've developed assume a huge interconnected network of supplies. To make Mars self sufficient you'd have to reinvent a huge chunk of the modern industrial system while also trying to keep your small population of colonists from dying. It's a monumental challenge with today's technology.

I agree with you, but this isn't about creating fully working self-sufficient backup in a single go. There needs to be a first step, and then another, and so on. We will learn great deal from it, be it IT technology, materials, physics but also about us - psychology, physiology etc.

What event are you thinking of which will make Earth less hospitable than Mars? Supervolcano? Asteroid?

All those plus climate changes, lunatics in power, etc.

With all those things, even after nuclear war, Earth is still much better place for life than Mars.

Depends on the size of the asteroid

> Depends on the size of the asteroid.

Which is inversely correlated with the chances of it coming in any particular timeframe.

I'm the biggest fan of colonizing Mars, but my children know that if Daddy ever has the chance he is going to Mars to suffer, not to play. Mars will be hard and unforgiving. Life will be horrible for the first two generations at least. At no point will it ever be better than life on Earth.

And yet, I'll be the first in line.

> if Daddy ever has the chance he is going to Mars to suffer, not to play. Mars will be hard and unforgiving. Life will be horrible for the first two generations at least. At no point will it ever be better than life on Earth.

This reminded me of computer tech in its first approximation: hard and unforgiving. It took about 2 generations to make it into a ubiquitous mobile device. In about four generations AI will make space colonies possible. "And AI shall produce acomodations for adventurous humans and preserve them". Space seems first and foremost the realm of AI, embodying our outreach. We won't actually go to space unless a planet is discovered and farmed to be hospitable.

Bioterrorism, rogue Nono-tech, rogue AI, hyper-stable authoritarian government.

Pretty sure we would bring all of this baggage with us to Mars.

Bioterrorism strongly depends on the incubation period. Probably safe on Mars. Rogue nanotech - not unless it has AI. (Though gray goo is not considered very realistic nowadays, as we've realized just how hard even regular nanotech is, and how hostile the natural environment is to nano-scale mechanisms.)

Nuclear war is the big one. Mars colonization would be less about preserving human life, per se, and more about preserving an operational duplicate of the peak state of human civilization.

My opinion is that these are just be symptoms of our social mental state. We're the virus. We need to fix ourselves. Maybe space exploration will help us see a little more long term? Hope so.

But our "redundancy site" is awful for human life. Imagine if we just worked on fixing up the place we live on already that has air we can breathe, abundant liquid water, and isn't inundated with deadly radiation. We will need to leave Earth in 5 billion years when the sun goes red giant. 5 billion years is an INCREDIBLE amount of time. Things we do in 2019 will have zero influence on those times. It is much more likely we annihilate ourselves with nuclear weapons or global climate change and pollution way before then. In my opinion, it is better to spend money that would be spent on a silly Mars pipedream to put out those fires first.

> It is much more likely we annihilate ourselves with nuclear weapons or global climate change and pollution way before then

That’s the point.

Imagine if we just worked on fixing up the place we live on already that has air we can breathe, abundant liquid water, and isn't inundated with deadly radiation.

Funny, but extremely high altitudes of the atmosphere of Venus could fit the bill in the context of places in the Solar System. Temperatures and pressures are around room temperature and pressure there. The thick atmosphere of Venus provides some radiation protection, and water can be extracted from the clouds of sulfuric acid droplets there. You couldn't directly breathe the air, but oxygen could be produced in-situ, and bags full of breathable atmosphere would be buoyant, so you could easily suspend cloud cities there just by using the atmosphere inside the environment domes.

There's this real cool concept about a manned blimp that was produced by NASA a few years ago. It has a really cool video to go with it too.


But without easy access to heavier minerals it would be essentially a dead end, useful as a research base but nothing more.

But without easy access to heavier minerals it would be essentially a dead end

People who have been thinking about this are way ahead of you. There are plenty of minerals on the surface. We should be able to build remotely piloted mining equipment using phase change materials (like water) to shed heat. To cool the equipment off, we just haul it back to the high altitude base before the phase change material tank runs dry.

You can do both. It's not an either-or scenario like you are describing.

Also a very tiny amount of people are working on space right now (maybe 500,000 between NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, ESA, ISRO, JAXA, etc). That's 0.00625% of the world's population.

It's actually in about 100 million years as the sun gradually increases in luminosity.

Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu, Einstein, Morobuto, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes .. and all of this .. all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars."

I see an estimate for 1% every 110 million years, is that enough to make Earth uninhabitable? Surely not.

Apparently the Earth's orbit places us in the hot end of the inhabitable zone, so only a relatively modest increase in received energy makes us go the way of Venus.

Yea, I think a good demonstration is Antarctica. Antarctica is both much more accessible and much more hospitable than Mars. But there's very little human activity there.

It's hard to imagine there's an economic case for Mars or the Moon while Antarctica remains undeveloped.

It's worth noting that Antarctica remains undeveloped in large part because the Antarctic Treaty System bans commercial exploitation:


Not that there would be much going on without the treaties, but it would likely be commercially viable for oil exploration or maybe mining.

Antartica is not a stepping stone to further and greater endeavors out into the cosmos It's more of a "dead end", cosmically speaking. This is why it doesn't have same interest or appeal.

There are also other reasons. You can't learn about the possibility of life on other planets in Antartica, and seek to answer one of the greatest questions of all time: "are we alone?". You can't closely study another planet in Antartica. You can't be a brave new explorer seeing incredible places for the very first time in Antartica. There are far less new scientific and engineering challenges in Antartica whose solutions will greatly benefit everyone here on Earth. And so on.

Note, these things are true for any next-gen space endeavor in our corner of the solar system. It doesn't have to be Mars, or even just Mars. For example, we could build larger and more advanced facilities and machinery in LEO, while also building a small base on the moon and exploring Mars for the first time.

Antarctica is a great place to do science, and the majority of the activity at the US South Pole base is currently astronomy. Mars and the Moon will pass through that sort of phase before they might become actual colonies.

Yeah, I don't mean to put down Antartica. I think the research we do there is very cool, and we should keep doing what we can there. But it isn't even close to an alternative to humanity pushing further out into space.

> There are also other reasons. You can't learn about the possibility of life on other planets in Antartica, and seek to answer one of the greatest questions of all time: "are we alone?". You can't closely study another planet in Antartica. You can't be a brave new explorer seeing incredible places for the very first time in Antartica. There are far less new scientific and engineering challenges in Antartica whose solutions will greatly benefit everyone here on Earth. And so on.

That's an argument against research on Antarctica, but that's the one thing humans do there.

The two aren't mutually exclusive. There are things that you can do in Antartica that wouldn't benefit from being done in space.

For example, Antarctica is a great place to research Antarctica. And Mars is a great place to research Mars. For that reason alone, there will be people on Mars, even if there's nothing to commercially exploit there and no reason to colonize it.

Not necessarily true. The artic and Antarctic destroy structures over time. It's also dark for several months at a time.

No light for part of the year vs no air ever. Hmm, let me think about that one for a minute.

I think settling Mars will and should happen, but anyone who doesn’t realise it will be thousands of times more expensive, risky and dependent on external support than eg Antarctica I think isn’t really grasping the difference in scale of the problem.

Yea, I mean, just as far as accessibility, it costs 10,000 times more to deliver a pound of cargo to the ISS vs McMurdo station in antartica. I don't have numbers for the building and maintenance of the two stations, but presumably its even more than that.

Mars does have an atmosphere, although unbreathable.

I don't think it's called air if you can't breath it.

Colonizing Mars and others is not about the economy. It is about survival of the human race.

The irony is that this kind of technology could be important on earth now. From an environmental perspective a closed ecological system could be very beneficial. A system where resources are not wasted or allowed to pollute. And where all outputs are used as an input for something else.

We already had this but then we decided to dig out fossil fuels and we could no longer go back to the previous life style.

Everything about living on Mars is hostile to life. Doing anything there like mining and manufacturing will be orders of magnitude more difficult and for what?

Wasn't there a fair bit of difficulty involved in building fleets of sailing ships and exploring the Earth? As it so happens, the reward for doing so was to become dominant in the new global geopolitical context. There's an incentive to keep up in the new expansion of context to keep from being left behind and engulfed in a larger context. The potential total population of the solar system, even based on just on foreseeable technologies, asteroid resources, and solar power could easily be in the hundreds of billions. Fusion power increases that potential by orders of magnitude.

It seems silly to be trying to rush to a place that wants to kill you when we have a great place here already that we could just stop messing up.

These aren't mutually exclusive things. And make no mistake: Many things involving ocean travel prior to the industrial revolution literally involved rushing to places that want to kill you, via another place that wants to kill you. Isn't rushing to a place that wants to kill you another kind of "doing things that don't scale (at first)?" If it means eventual geopolitical dominance in a future larger context, there will be wealthy nations willing to foot the bill.

It's been claimed that the high demand for timber is partially responsible for much of the deforestation of the British Isles. In fact, the demand was so high that the Colonies also provided a significant quantity.


The performance of the large American frigates may be partially attributable to the characteristics of American timber.


In Roman times, the British Isles were also a significant source of lead.


We do not have the technology to settle every inch of space on Earth in a sustainable manner. We also do not have the tech to live on Mars.

There is a good chance that creating the tech for the later will make the former possible, but not vice versa.

The benefit of going to mars is that it opens up knowledge and know how / experience upon the human race to go further beyond. Spreading our species gives an evolutionary advantage.

This is how we get there. That kind of space flight would be the end result of hundreds of years (probably) of space flight development. Compare polynesian canoes with modern powered ships.

> That we all could just travel and explore the universe.

We could have been there probably decades ago if not so much money was wasted on waging pointless wars across all the countries of Earth.

But then: would we even have the technology of rocketry, microchips and all the other stuff without the military need for them in the first place?

The common element between military motivation and going multiplanetary is the same: My people and our way of life will end forever if we don’t do this

An interesting sentiment. Consider what doesn't seem tricky today. Imagine explaining using the internet with a smartphone to someone in 1950, for example. Oh, you just take out this handheld device you keep in your pocket which contains micro-chips that have billions of transistors and an entire city-grid of nanoscopic wires connecting them together to form a processor (actually several of them on the same chip) which then operates at a clock frequency of billions of hertz. This battery powered device then communicates over the airwaves sending and receiving data at up to many megabytes per second, and which communication occurs through a complicated globe-spanning network of millions of nodes and components, each of which are based on various types of miniaturized computers. Every step along the way represents more miracles and more computers: the LTE data connection to a cell tower, the LAN connection from the tower through switches and routers through the service provider through more switches and routers on the internet backbone and then through other switches, routers, load balancers, firewalls, cloud services, etc. to some end-point service. From radio to back and forth beween electrical signals in wires to light pulses in fiber optics and then maybe back to radio at the end. And all of this might facilitate anything as "simple" as sending an instantaneous message almost anywhere in the entire world, or making a video call (also almost anywhere in the world), or mobile banking, or shopping online, or reading an online encyclopedia article, or catching up on the news, or any other sundry tasks that would seem bewildering to someone from a pre-internet age.

In contrast, rocketry seems practically easy, it's just an engineering problem in comparison. You exercise literally trillions of transistors just to send an emoji to a friend, and yet the modern world we've built makes all that seem trivially easy. Not because it is easy, but just because we've invested a ton of effort into building and optimizing every bit and piece of it. We're already on some Nth generation of smartphones (retina displays, quad-cores, GPUs, LTE, etc, etc, etc.) whereas we're really not on that many generations of rockets, certainly less than a dozen, maybe only half a dozen depending on how you count. Once we get rolling with reusable rockets the iterations on development will speed up and we'll progress faster. And we'll get to a place where what seems like an adventure into the barren wilderness today will become merely routine and ubiquitous. Just as today using computers or flying on a jet aircraft thousands of miles seems routine and ubiquitous.

As for the benefits of space exploration and colonization I expect a lot of them will come in ways that people won't expect. A greater appreciation for what we take for granted here on Earth, for example. A tree on Mars is a treasure to be protected and revered, as is clean air and water. On Earth it's not much different, but we don't take care of the gifts we have to the degree they deserve. We dirty our air and pollute our water, we overfish our oceans, etc. Similarly, advanced off-Earth habitats are going to need to seriously invest in things like renewable energy, energy storage, recycling, end-to-end stewardship of the "CHON-cycle", and all that stuff. Here on Earth we can be reckless and treat topsoil, groundwater, and phosphorous as practically unlimited resources we abuse and discard all too readily. We kill our bug populations indiscriminately, etc. On, say, Mars they will need to be very thoughtful and careful about every single one of those things. They'll need to treat their resources as the precious and limited things they actually are. Which is true of here too (we're draining our aquifers like there's no tomorrow, but there is a tomorrow). Those habitats will drive development of technologies and solutions which will be incredibly valuable here on Earth as well, and may help drive us toward a more mature relationship with our environment and our use of resources.

I'm sitting on my couch, just idly watching live footage of some people doing stuff 200 miles above me. Above the place I will spend the entirety of my life. Watching them do complicated things that, if we're lucky and don't destroy ourselves first, will ensure our species becomes multi-planetary. Maybe even space faring someday.

Life is weird.

I watched Free Solo not long ago, yesterday I watched Falcon 9 launch then land flawlessly and today I watched Dragon 2 dock with the ISS.

It's mind boggling how apt humans are to what should be impossible.

Oooh, I'm eagerly awaiting that film to screen in Berlin later this month! I loved Alex's TED talk. Just that little taste had my palms very, very sweaty.

National Geographic channel aired it today (March 3rd). But if you have the opportunity to see it on an IMAX size screen, I would wait until that.

Highly recommended! If you can, see it on IMAX for maximum palm sweating :P

Which film?

Apparently there's a documentary coming out about Alex Honnold's free solo ascend of El Capitan. It's called "Free Solo"[1]

[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7775622/?ref_=nv_sr_1

It was already released and won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 2019 Academy Awards.

It's something that you should consider viewing if you have the chance. The cinematography alone is worth the price of admission // rental.


Imagine the energy and money spent on bickering and wars and ultimately useless junk were not.

I'm not a fan of war, but many technologies and sciences were developed for military use, everything from mathematics for ballistics, food preservation, thermodynamics, antibiotics, nuclear energy, the lunar program, and GPS.

So yes, war is a horrendous waste and terrible detriment to humanity, but even war has had some beneficial side effects.

The same effort can be put into inventing these in the absence of conflict. You do need funding and you do need urgency, but that's a question of national will.

Unfortunately, it (often) _isn't_. I'd love to live in that world, but it doesn't seem realistic.

...and war seems to be the most effective source of national will.

Just wait until you hear about Wernher von Braun.

And how is that a refutation, logically?

War has enabled his "useless" creations.

Well said.

Might want to focus on that "don't destroy ourselves first" part.. And consider all the other things on the planet & maybe it's a good thing to save those too. Just because, when is the last time we discovered another planet with intricacy and diversity of Earth?

As far as I understand there is still some time before humanity becomes interplanetary in any meaningful way, maybe even many generations. And what is going on so far these days is mostly about not regressing.

Making rockets re-usable is a massive step forward and not about 'not regressing'.

I doesn't seem clear at this point whether re-usable will be significant for activities beyond earth orbit. Partly the excitement comes from being a workaround for humanities reluctance to spend money on space exploration. Believe what you want, but from what I can find this doesn't seem to be a significant part of what would e.g. make humanity interplanetary. At least not yet.

Getting to orbit is hard, for anything big beyond earth orbit, we'll probably need manufacturing or at least some assembly in orbit. That takes a lot of trips from earth to orbit. Making that more efficient means more resources left for the real exploration.

I dunno if I really follow your logic here. It would be nice if nobody cared about money and we all just worked hard to make everything awesome or whatever. But, we (sadly) don't live in that world. So in this world that we do live in, bringing down the cost of getting things/people from the ground to really really high up in the sky can only be viewed as a step towards becoming multiplanetary.

>I doesn't seem clear at this point whether re-usable will be significant for activities beyond earth orbit.

beside everything else, getting retro-rockets work well at hypersonic speeds is a key to landing on Mars (I really loved the de-facto SpaceX propaganda series "Mars". Even better than "Martian" for me. The only slight disappointment is the cop out at the very end).

My great grandmother was reading a pulp magazine about man going to the moon when she was young, her father made a point to check that she understood that such things were impossible if not extremely far off in the future. The only reason I know this story is that she survived to watch the moon landings and told my father, who told me. The moral of the story was always that it's very hard to predict technological growth, in particular, we tend to undershoot with our long term predictions. Personally I tend to be more weary of people that claim something won't happen in my lifetime than people that tell me something will happen.

Did you notice NASA's RFP for a reusable lunar lander?

Did you notice ULA's reusable/refuelable ACES is aimed squarely at BEO?

And if SpaceX and Blue Origin bid for the 2 LOP-G resupply flights, they'll bid reusable launchers and claim significant cost savings.

Sounds like everyone has reusable stuff in their plans. Believe what you want!


I named 4 different organizations that think that reusability is important beyond earth orbit.

Also, saying "If you don't want to see that point I can't really help that" is not going to result in a good conversation.

If you want to get back from Mars you need a reusable rocket.

By that definition, the Apollo program had reusable rockets. (Able to climb back out of a gravity well, leave orbit of a large mass, and return to earth).

Escape velocity of Mars is less than half Earth's or about double the moon's.

Overcoming blockers is always significant.

In the past we even had space ships, which could start from ground, go to space, do stuff, come back and the could be reused. Having just a rocket isn't that much of an improvement.

That said: All the constraints on making it reusable and safe for humans are also a key factor why Space Shuttle was so expensive. With SpaceX's rockets not all parts need to resist the stress of reentry etc.

> In the past we even had space ships, which could start from ground, go to space, do stuff, come back and the could be reused

The 're-used' aspect of the Shuttle involved massive re-fits which took months for each vehicle. It was like having to send your car back to the manufacturer for a total rebuild (often including engine change) every time you went for a drive. SpaceX is a massive improvement in this respect.

And two expended boosters and an expended fuel tank.

Nitpick: the boosters were reused by parachute splashdown, but it was also really expensive due to (among other things) the corrosiveness of salt water. The External Tank was in fact expended.

Each SRB consisted of 11 cylindrical steel sections. After flight and recovery, these were dismantled, refilled with solid rocket fuel as appropriate, and then reconnected to form a new SRB with all of the O-rings, etc.

So also a complete rebuild, with reuse occurring at the segment level, not of the whole booster assembly.

Dragons are also reused (although at first, these newer ones will only be reused for cargo flights).

Additionally, SpaceX is serious about Starship/BFR. That's fully reusable and will be capable of going to the Moon (or even Mars) and back fully reusably: https://twitter.com/JaneidyEve/status/1102023437206388736

For all its faults, and it had a few, Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu helped stretch my perspective to be ok with the fact that space travel could be a multigenerational activity even with a quantum leap in technology.

My “cool things to do once in a lifetime” list just got a new item - Watch SpaceX send humans to ISS. There is this strange urge to actually witness my species achieving great things.

That's definitely neat, but why not aim higher? Depending on your age?

I'm in my 30s: My goal here is to live on Mars. SpaceX's colony is aimed at being able to support 1M people, with something like 80,000 leaving Earth each Mars transit window on a BFR/Starship. Save some money now, wait 20-30 years for them to get the initial hard colony built and then buy my ticket.

Might not work, but I think I'll at least get close. You can definitely aim higher than watching them send people to ISS! That'll happen in the next few months/years, but so much more is happening after that, like the 7 people going around the Moon, or the first Mars launches on Starship, etc!


(and lol that this is at -3, I'm just excited about stuff okay? no need to bury it deep underground and hate it so much!)

I don't know why you're getting so downvoted. I mean, living on Mars for people in their 30s is probably a stretch goal, but getting to space is realistic.

Realistically, Starship won't fly regularly until around the mid 2020s and even that beast of a ship won't be cheap enough to commercialize space properly. I think you'll have to wait until Starhip's successor or the Blue Origin equivalent (~2040, ~15m diameter) for any chance to go.

If SpaceX manages the feat of launching the Starship for $50 million (unlikely, probably 2-3x more) and carry 100 people, it still means 500k/ticket. And that's just launch, for actual missions you'd need operational support, extra space (ie fewer passengers) for life support etc. So maybe around 2030-2035 you'd be able to ride around the moon for a few days (like the pre Apollo 11 missions) for $1.5 million.

If the successor rockets manage to lower the cost further, maybe around 2045 you'd be able to spend a week on the moon for 500k, or a weekend in low earth orbit for 200k? Maybe that rocket will make it possible to take a trip to mars for $1 million? I'd imagine rent would be pretty expensive there as well.

These are certainly not middle-class prices, but if you sell your house instead of leaving it to your children, or don't have children, or are pretty very well-off it's not unrealistic. You'd also have to make sure you're in tip-top health at 60-something though, so some luck would still be required.

I like you ambition. However I seem to become more conservative and nostalgic with age. The thought of going on a one-way trip to Mars when you are 60 is scary. It is probably too cold and monochromatic for my taste.

But thank you for the idea of longer term goals - "Experience zero-gravity and see Earth from outer atmosphere" is now on the list.

> The thought of going on a one-way trip to Mars

Oh my it's not a one-way ticket! Those people selling 1-way tickets were scammers. A key tenet of SpaceX seems to be that you can come home to Earth whenever you want, or at least when the planets align for a fast journey. They will need to transport a lot of Starships back to Earth, and as long as they are like 30% empty it works out for people to come home any time at all. I'm banking on that too, coming back to visit Earth in the future.

> when you are 60 is scary.

Yeah okay, it is a bit scary to think about now. But I don't think it will be scary then. Should be just like airplanes now - that's the goal for SpaceX anyway.

> But thank you for the idea of longer term goals - "Experience zero-gravity and see Earth from outer atmosphere" is now on the list.

Woo! You are welcome!

Apparently in the "vomit comet" you get much more "zero gravity" time for one tenth of the money https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reduced-gravity_aircraft But you don't get they nice selfie for posting in Instagram .

(And you can argue that it's not the same "zero gravity", but using the fake Einstein quote "Everything is relative".)

Virgin Galactic might make that happen sooner than later.

They’ve been promising that since spaceship one, 15 years ago.

Starship is supposed to carry a couple hundred passengers. That would be a few hundred ships all launching at once; while I share the enthusiasm I’m not sure that’s realistic due to the [lack of] economic incentives involved.

> That would be a few hundred ships all launching at once

Yes, that's the plan as described by Elon! Maybe not "all at once" but over the course of some days/weeks, yes.

> I’m not sure that’s realistic due to the [lack of] economic incentives involved

Every Mars thread someone pops in to say this, but it simply isn't true. There are major economic incentives to go to Mars, and selling tickets is #1 of hundreds. There are basically infinite ways of making money by going to Mars and I'm really upset that the HN crowd is so dedicated to the line that there's no money on Mars. There's trillions of dollars on Mars.

With tickets priced at $200,000 or so as Elon has described, each Starship should have launch-day revenues of $40,000,000 if each ones carries 200 people. Wowza that's solid, no? And it's just tickets so far we're talking about, no science research or other goods or services or plans or anything at all, just consumer tickets.

There's plenty of money to be made.


Edit: I guess I've been banned? I'm no longer allowed to post on HN this morning. Here's my response to the post below.

I think we are on different pages here. I'm not talking about tourism, I'm talking about people who will build libraries, write books, dig for oil or whatever, innovate new solar panels, build houses, create industries, make movies, build new spaceships to the stars, go to the poles and think about philosophy, create new electronics, work on particle physics, etc.

Not tourism!!

> (a) people who can afford 200k and (b) people willing to risk a possible one-way trip.

Yes? There ought to be tens of millions of such people in 20-50 years. Why wouldn't there be? Elon gave us half a century notice to save our money. We're doing it. If they build it, we'll be ready to come.

> curious to hear examples

Okay. The Mars Colony seems like the first stepping stone into future solar system exploration. There will be significant opportunities there to build new products and drive new frontiers. I'll come back and write some specific examples soon, but I see it as far more economically interesting than Europe coming to North America in the long run: the possibilities are seriously endless, given the resources available, the lack of commercial claim to them, and the incredible rarity and quantity of those resources can change our ideas about what can be reasonably built by humans/robots in our lifetimes.

You may be right that there are many ways to make money beyond tickets (I don’t know—curious to hear examples), but I don’t think your ticket math quite adds up.

200k might be an ok ticket price for some, but you’re talking about the overlap of: (a) people who can afford 200k and (b) people willing to risk a possible one-way trip.

You’re talking about tickets as if this is space tourism: space tourism is a loop around the moon. We’re not going to have Mars “tourism” in the near future. These proposed hundreds of passengers are in for high-risk exploration.

"Musk thinks the ticket price could eventually dip below $100,000, cheap enough that "most people in advanced economies could sell their home on Earth and move to Mars if they want."

And have the 24hr equivalent of a coal miner’s job.

Ok, Falcon 9 costs 62M$ just to bring something on earth orbit. Why you would ever think that 40M$ worth of tickets to bring a BFR on Mars would be profitable?

> Ok, Falcon 9 costs 62M$ just to bring something on earth orbit.

That is false. Where are you getting your info? Falcon 9 costs a lot less than that to deliver cargo to LEO! And the price is dropping every day.

> Why you would ever think that 40M$ worth of tickets to bring a BFR on Mars would be profitable?

There's no need to be condescending. First, I did not state at any point that $40M per launch would be profitable! Please don't make things up and say I said them. I merely stated a large source of revenue. I said there would be other sources as well, I made a big point about that!

Elon has stated many times that the Starship/BFR would cost less to launch than the Falcon 1, amortized over many reusable launches. Falcon 1, not even Falcon 9. So the cost of launching a Starship would be dramatically lower than your made-up numbers.

Ok it’s 50m now, still speaking about earth orbit

Source!? Falcon 9 cost is not even public is it? Your number is wayyyy too high to match with current SpaceX economics I think.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9 If you have a better source feel free to update the page. However I think that it will be much more costly a travel of more than 50M km rather than less that 50K.

Those are external costs to customers, not internal SpaceX costs I believe. Super different because the profit margin is hidden there.

Also worth mentioning is that 200k is much less when considering you'd be able to sell your house/car/everything to do so.

Why would you be banned?

But your species sends humans to ISS all the time. Or do you think Russians are cats? :)

Far from it. However it seems seeing Soyuz is somewhat [1] complicated. One needs to travel to Kazachstan’s remote Baikonur, get a special tour and chances are you will be rejected for no little reason. Apparently there’s not much to do there if that happens. Now going to Florida from Europe is quite a trip as well. But at least you can go snorkeling in Key West after the launch.

[1] https://amp.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/21/-sp-kazakhstan...

Do you ever wonder how people felt when they say Magellan or Captain Cook set off? Or, when they watched the Apollo missions happen?

I'm guessing that this is what it felt like. We're at the dawn of a new space age.

I've felt that about SpaceX ever since seeing the Grasshopper testing videos. Up until that point, if a rocket slowed down during takeoff something had gone horribly wrong. Then it just... hovered... and landed, and I realised this was the start of a new era of space travel.

The Falcon Heavy launch is still the highlight for me but this one is probably more important, simply because it's so normal and routine now and paves the way for drastically cheaper crewed orbital flights.

Up until that point, if a rocket slowed down during takeoff something had gone horribly wrong.

Just in case anyone is unaware of the most notable exception:



DC-X has been a major inspiration and proof-by-example for commercial reusable rocket efforts. Its technical achievements and focus on aircraft-like low-cost operations showed a path out of (or into?) the darkness.

I'd actually missed that one! In my defense that was just before I got the internet at home. :P Super impressive for 25-year-old tech.

I don't know which mission it was exactly, but I think it was the first one where they tried to recover two booster stages (I hope that's what they are called). Watching the live stream of both of them landing simultaneously back on the pad gave me goosebumps and sent shivers down my spine, in a good way.

Not to diminish that feeling, but there was a kind of funny mistake made in the livestream for the Falcon Heavy launch (which was actually attempting to land 3 stages at around the same time, but one of them had an issue and suicided into the ocean as designed).

Turns out, both of the video streams for the 2 side rockets were actually of the same rocket! You can go back and watch the corrected footage of both landing at once, but it was funny when many watching along (myself included) were like "wow they are so identical" only to find that it was the same footage!

Haha, no worries, I was aware of that while watching. What impressed me was the footage from the ground based (or helicopter?) camera that showed them landing side by side.

Edit: I didn't know that three boosters were supposed to land. That probably would've blown my mind if it had succeeded ^^

Yeah they were attempting to land all 3, but the center booster (which would have landed on a barge at sea) had issues relighting it's engines during the landing burn.

They setup the landings so that they are on a trajectory to hit the ocean, and only if everything goes right do they then adjust course to the landing pads. This gives them an additional failsafe which the center booster took advantage of here. Instead of crashing into an expensive barge in the ocean, it just splashed down into the ocean purposely missing the barge.

[1] is a diagram that kind of shows what this looks like for land based landings, but it's very similar for barge landings too.

And don't worry, they are going to be flying Falcon Heavy again soon-ish, so there's another chance to land all 3!

[1] http://i.imgur.com/D9BdO86.png

> or helicopter?

Probably a quad/octocopter - I know they've used one before for footage.

Third booster was supposed to land on a droneship - it was a near miss: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXd5UHFuZVI

It needed to relight three engines, it ran out of igniter before lighting more than one.

That was the Falcon Heavy test launch that also brought a Tesla to orbit.


Oh yeah, there was something else to that launch too. Thanks for reminding me of that! I'll have to rewatch it at some point.

That shot was epic. Rocket ballet. Seeing those two boosters land together was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. They may have lost the third booster, but as a demonstration of what SpaceX does, it was brilliantly done.

That was the falcon heavy test launch. The two rockets that landed were side boosters which so happened to be two other falcon 9s.

Soyuz takes people to the space station every few months, has done for years.

Why is this specific mission new?

The commercial crew missions by both Boeing and SpaceX are new and interesting for a number of reasons:

- This will be one of the first vehicles developed by a private entity to launch people into space, rather than a nation. That represents a huge step "down" the ladder of who has access to space. First, it's only nations. Later, it's large companies and entities. Down the line a little bit medium-sized companies will have access to space and wealthy individuals. Then we'll get down to small companies and fairly well-off individuals. Finally, we'll reach a point where everyone can afford to make trips to or through space. This is a huge first step on the ladder.

- The first stage of this vehicle was a booster that autonomously landed itself on a drone-ship, allowing it to be recovered and refurbished quickly and cheaply. Re-use of this first stage has the potential to drastically lower the cost to get humans (and stuff) into space. SpaceX has already pretty radically altered the launch provider scene by causing all players to lower costs across the board. And they can do that while maintaining very healthy margins if they get re-use right. Eventually, as other competitors (like Blue Origin) enter the market with re-usable launchers the price will fall further toward the new marginal cost, which is drastically lower.

Both of these things have the power to be the first steps into a world where there's a radically expanded access to space for people and companies. All this is happening at the same time that there are a number of other exciting developments in the space industry (NASA planning to start the Lunar Gateway; SpaceX thinking about how to plan to colonize mars; Bigelow planning to launch commercial space stations; Blue Origin about to enter the scene with a very exciting new launch vehicle), it feels (to me, anyway) like we're on the cusp of another big leap forward.

Isn't your first point the natural development of things? As example: Which tank or fighter jet is NOT produced by a private entity today?

I think it is the natural development of things!

Just because something is a natural development doesn't mean we don't get to be excited when it happens.

I think airplanes becoming a mode of mass transit were a natural development. It probably seemed like a pretty exciting development as that transition was happening.

Similarly, once you have computers it seems natural to develop a global interconnected network of them. I was pretty excited when that was taking off!

Also, just because the ordering is natural doesn't mean the timing is natural. We've expected these kinds of developments to happen in space for a long time. But we didn't know when they would happen. It was thought that this change might happen in the 70's or 80's. Others thought it might be as far off as 2040 or 2050.

The fact that we're seeing some real tangible evidence of progress _now_ is super exciting.

It's a step, but not a first step - it's the second step along the nations/large/medium/small/people road

Nor have they actually put anyone in space.

The first stage landing is great, but again it's not new -- SpaceX have been doing this for a few years now. Last year's Falcon Heavy, especially the two rockets landing simultaneously on live tv, felt very futuristic. This isn't anywhere near as impressive as that from a "wow" perspective . The MaxQ abort test probably will be, especially if live-streamed.

Scientifically, in the last 10 years we've landed on comets, brought bits of asteroids back to earth, driven a rover on an asteroid, landed on the far side of the moon, explored rocks billions of miles away.

Any 'new commercial space age' started at least 7 years ago when spacex started being paid for these types of launches - a commercially developed rocket being used for commercial purposes, but companies have had access to space for decades - everytime I point a BGAN at the sky to get communications in the desert I'm using a private company's infrastructure.

If you're just talking about a new crewed space exploration age, SpaceX has immense promise, but that's all it is - promise. Once it is delivering people to orbit, which a 50 year old technology currently does, and hopefully progresses further, then that's great. But this is just another minor step on the road.

If America was still launching people to the ISS on Apollo, and a Chinese company did a test flight to the ISS using SpaceX technology, I very much doubt there would be as much excitement as there is for this launch.

If dearMoon puts private people round the moon, the first people to leave LEO for 50 years, I'll be ecstatic. But I'm also cautious -- SpaceX announced a crewed lunar flyby for launch in 2018.

> It's a step, but not a first step - it's the second step along the nations/large/medium/small/people road

Cool! I agree, but did anyone claim it was the first step?

Magellan or Captain Cook weren't the first steps of their day, either. Nor were the Apollo missions first steps. The Mercury missions had come first!

Why can't we be exciting, and have that feeling of exploration for each step? Why should only the first step be exciting? I reject the notion and would argue that every step in pushing our boundaries further out is exciting.

> The first stage landing is great, but again it's not new -- SpaceX have been doing this for a few years now

I feel like you and I have different time-horizons for what counts as "the dawn of a new space age". When areoform said we were at that dawn I didn't take it to mean on this day we are at that dawn.

The dawn of a new age takes a while. This decade is the dawn of a new space age, not necessarily this specific day. At least, that's how I interpreted the comments.

> Cool! I agree, but did anyone claim it was the first step?

Yes, the person I responded to said

"This is a huge first step on the ladder."

This is a tiny step. Come summer when there's actual people on board then yes, it's a significant step towards forward movement, having being going pretty much nowhere since the 70s.

I think the biggest step recently, beyond landings or space flight or even a lunar return mission, is the live streaming of launches on youtube. SpaceX feels more futuristic and accessible because they drive that engagement, something not seen since the days of Challenger in 86.

I disagree about the dawn. The dawn of the space age was October 4th 1957.

> Yes, the person I responded to said

> "This is a huge first step on the ladder."

Ha! Fair enough! The person you responded to was me, and I did write that.

I guess "first step" was not actually an important part of my claim, so I didn't think about it as I was writing it.

I'd agree that I should have written "this is a huge next step on the ladder", and not claimed it as the first step.

> This is a tiny step. Come summer when there's actual people on board then yes, it's a significant step towards forward movement, having being going pretty much nowhere since the 70s.

Eh, I think of the launch today, the in-flight abort, and DM-2 as all part of the same step. Fair enough if you don't consider it "done" until DM-2. I probably won't consider the step "done" for a couple of years (when commercial crew is as routinized as commercial cargo and booster re-use), but I would definitely consider today a major milestone.

It's the first operational flight of the hardware!

> The dawn of the space age was October 4th 1957.

Sure, that's true. I mean, it's pretty semantic at this point, but areoform had originally written: "We're at the dawn of a new space age."

I was using that as my reference for being at dawn. I think it's pretty reasonable to say we're right at the cusp of an exciting decade of development in space, in a way that we haven't been for half a century.

I'm not going to stop being excited about that!

That's in a large part subjective. For some until we have truly groundbreaking physics with applications which allow doing something considered strictly impossible with previous science, it's not worthy of consideration. For others, just watching slowly unrolling results of decades of development - in electronics (hardware on board of Falcons), computers (organization of that hardware into bigger complex structures, software), organization of enterprises (venture capitalism able to support risky ventures, accumulation of wealth to individuals, ability to optimize for non-immediate or non-financial goals, cooperation with government), methods of material tuning (heat shield, tank bodies, engine) is demonstration enough of the progress being made.

We can easily, within few years forget how hard is a particular achievement. Remember how fast Apollo flights started to be considered boring. Or we may turn to those who work on complex problems as we speak, imagine how hard would it be for ourselves doing that and appreciate and honor actual work which leads to these demonstrations. The choice is definitely ours to make.

It costs about $81 million USD per seat round-trip to go to ISS on Soyuz. SpaceX is doing the same for around $58 million per person (last I read). That alone is a HUGE deal. And that cost is expected to drop as SpaceX gets more comfortable with launching humans, whereas Soyuz has been raising prices.

Not to mention that it's increasing the number of countries and rocket designs that can send people to and from the ISS. Without alternate launch providers, if some flaw were to be found in Soyuz or political issues begin to get in the way of launches, then the US could find itself unable to get astronauts to and from the ISS safely.

Boeing is also in this race, and will be sending up humans to space in their Starliner soon as well, it's still up in the air which will get to the with humans on board ISS first.

A cost reduction of less than 50% for something that the Russians have been doing routinely with 1960s technology is akin to Magellan setting sail? I like SpaceX but man the spin is blinding.

The cost reduction is relative to the price Russia charges, not compared to their costs.

Supposedly[1], it was $23 million in 2007. but Russia raised the prices since then. The cost of the Soyuz to the Russians could well be lower than SpaceX still.


I'm not saying it is, i'm just explaining what is new about this mission and why I'm excited for it.

I think people are making it larger than it is because doing something and commercializing something are completely different things.

The first flight in a plane was awesome, but not if we just stopped there. Currently SpaceX is somewhere along the line between the Wright Brothers and the Boeing 707. It may be "only price reductions", but once those price reductions hit a critical mass, it enables a whole world of possibilities. SpaceX is already talking about using their next rocket in a similar way to airlines now. Launching a bunch of people from one place into orbit, then landing in another place on the same planet for extremely fast flights across the world. They are talking about creating Moon and Mars bases. Those are things that won't ever happen if we keep spending hundreds of millions of dollars per launch, because the economics of it just won't ever work out.

They still aren't done, and it's no guarantee that they will be able to ever get prices down low enough, but at least they are trying, and making good headway toward it.

Magellan was not remotely the first to set sail, nor was he the first to apply that technology.

Of course what SpaceX does is not the same thing as Magellan's trip around the Earth, but it's absolutely an important milestone. It reduces costs on something very expensive, it reuses rockets in a way that wasn't possible before (this is the part that makes it arguably more innovative than Magellan), and it finally gives the US its own capability to go to space again. It was a bit embarrassing how dependent the US had become on Russia since the Space Shuttle's retirement.

But the Soyuz was absolutely also a fantastic feat. It may be small, but it's been the world's primary workhorse for manned space travel to LEO. It's far more reliable than the Space Shuttle (2 lost crews vs none for the Soyus on far more flights, I believe). And the US has nothing remotely comparable. Until now.

Hopefully Crew Dragon will not only provide alternative to Soyuz, but also allow bigger crews and payloads both to and from space, nicer atmospheric returns in terms of accelerations and ability to fly on a shorter notice - it takes 2 years to make a Soyuz today.

The price per seat of $58 M was actually the average over SpaceX and Boeing seats (https://spacenews.com/nasa-boeing-spacex-share-more-details-...), not the price for a seat on Dragon. As far as I am aware, the prices that NASA is paying for seats from each provider are not public.

Google thinks a shuttle launch cost at least $450 million, for comparison.

It's really not something you can compare. Space Shuttle was not a can for humans to reach LEO. It was a much more capable spacecraft with a significantly bigger (both in volume and weight) payload.

With an appropriate payload there were proposals for upto 80 people in the shuttle. At $450m to launch that would be $6m a seat.

Indeed, clearly not a head-to-head comparison, I just wanted to find some figure for the shuttle's cost. It's not clear to me what the 450 includes.

I had not heard of this 80-person shuttle-bus, that sounds pretty crazy!

It was in the plans back in the late 1970s/early 1980s. You can see it popular science of the past, along with a lot of other parts to the total shuttle system, very little of which was ever built. The basic idea is you can put lots of things in the cargo bay, parts to a space station (not the ISS, though the shuttle was used to build the ISS), a rocket to get from low earth orbit to something else, a bus for lots of people.

I wonder how much was a serious proposal, and how much was an artist allowed to daydream.

I thought the going rate for falcon 9 reusable launches was $60 million a flight. With 7 astronauts shouldn't that work out to $8.5 million per astronaut? That's not accounting for the cost of the crew dragon, but I'd be surprised if that increases the cost by an order of magnitude

Well they had to do quite a lot to be able to get to the point where NASA approves of them launching humans, and those costs have to be gained back. Just look at this mission and the upcoming abort test and the years of work that has gone into getting that approval, it's not cheap!

Makes sense. Didn't NASA give them finding to develop the crew dragon though? Is that factored into the launch cost figures we see?

Reusable rockets is new.

Rather than ditching in the sea, the rocket landed back on earth and could in theory take up another payload a few days later, which is much cheaper and more efficient. It opens up space to a lot of other uses.

Compared to the cost and use of the shuttle (nominally reusable but not so much in practice), or other disposable rockets, this is a large step forward in reliability and efficiency, which will enable things like travel to Mars at low cost (by refuelling in orbit with multiple reusable vehicle launches for one mission).

Soyuz is a remarkable vehicle and the people who make and fly it should be very proud. The DM-1 mission is significant for several reasons. A return of manned space launch capability for the USA which will bring a lot of national pride. The commercialisation aspect with SpaceX and Boeing not just building a NASA vehicle like SLS/Orion but providing a launch service which could help open up space exploration to more sustainable development. And the story of SpaceX themselves from improbable tech founder vision 17 years ago to industry disruption and market leadership today. This is clearly a very important milestone for them as they ultimately want to send people to the Moon and Mars.

Well, for one, the Soyuz can only carry a crew of 3, whereas Crew Dragon can potentially carry up to 7, and is designed specifically (for NASA's purposes) for carrying 4. This alone adds significant flexibility to the crew levels of the station. Since the end of the Shuttle era the ISS has been stuck at only 6 crew, precisely the number that can come up and return on 2 soyuz capsules. With the addition of Crew Dragon in the mix it'll be possible to support 7 crew members on the station with just 1 Dragon and 1 Soyuz capsule. The ISS requires a lot of maintenance and routine tasks, even adding one crew member would significantly increase the amount of science they're able to do on the station.

Also, increasing the diversity of crew transfer vehicles is very helpful. Right now there are 4 different varieties of cargo vehicles that visit the station (Progress, HTV, Cargo Dragon, and Cygnus). This diversity means that delays or periods of downtime with any one of the cargo delivery systems can be made up for via the others, as has happened in the past. The same resiliency has not existed for some time in regards to crew transfer vehicles. Given that there was a failure during an attempt to launch a Soyuz capsule last year which put a serious strain on the station (potentially putting it in jeopardy of being left uncrewed for some time) you can see that this is a serious issue.

Additionally, Crew Dragon is the first new crewed spacecraft to visit the station that was designed within the last decade, or, indeed that was designed this century. Soyuz is reliable but it has a great many constraints and shortcomings, many of which can't be alleviated without moving to a new design. It's refreshing to see that we as a species still have the capability to build new crewed vehicles with new capabilities and new designs rather than simply shuffling about as custodians of legacy vehicles designed and built by previous generations.

Even more excitingly, the Crew Dragon was launched by a vehicle which landed the first stage, and will have its first stage be reused on a future flight. The Soyuz rocket/capsule is a remarkably inexpensive way for crew to get to orbit, but those low costs are due mainly to sticking with an old design (all the R&D has long been amortized) and reliance on inexpensive Russian labor. Falcon 9 is already cost competitive with the Soyuz and has the potential to be even cheaper as Falcon 9 first stage reuse becomes more common. As reusable rockets become more common and familiar, and as their design improves with increasing use and follow-on generations (Blue Origin's New Glenn, SpaceX's BFR/Starship, etc.) costs will continue to fall and access to space will open up. Which will bring about a new space age where many more people visit orbit per year, space stations become much larger and more advanced, and our capabilities in spaceflight are in general much greater than they are today.

It's the first new crew vehicle launch from the US since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. It's also in theory a lot cheaper than the Soyuz.


Why are "figures to worship" (religious or not - preferably not) needed at all?

Because spaceX Marketing and PR departments want you to feel this is new. There is also some American pride to be able to send people to space again without the need of the Russians.

All of this creates this overblown achievement feeling. This has been done 40 years ago!

> This has been done 40 years ago!

What private company was sending people into space on reusable rockets 40 years ago?

Rockwell, I guess, at a stretch? Over 30 years ago they built the Space Shuttle...

> Do you ever wonder how people felt when they say Magellan or Captain Cook set off? Or, when they watched the Apollo missions happen?

Yeah, I do wonder: https://youtu.be/goh2x_G0ct4?t=24

I think how they feel probably depends on their perspective, their financial situation, their susceptibility to public relations, and so on. Let's say everything goes "great," and there are a million people living on Mars in 50 years. Will it matter to people dying in a war, or ailing next to an open sewer, or what-have-you back on Earth that there's some depressed Martians trapped in smelly cans and covered in perchlorate- and iron-laden dust 4 to 12 light minutes away? I don't think it will.

I think that when many of us "wonder" or "imagine" what people felt like when they watched or participated in these events, what we're really doing is projecting the relief and and other pleasant emotions that we experience when we imagine them, when we use imagining them as an escape fantasy to cope with our own anxieties, to that imagined audience.

Frank Borman actually went to the Moon, and his feelings about it, are definitely situated inside of his own perspective: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/655/the-not-so-great-unknow...

It's probably important for us to face this phenomenon square on, to check in with what's really going on with our "dreams of space" or sense of Solar "manifest destiny." There's a reason that space-age propaganda seems so successful, both in its own time, where its object was removed from us only by the impassable gulf of 10 km/s, and now, when it is behind the second impassable gulf of nearly 60 years. If that reason is escapism, we should possibly check in with what it is we think we're escaping from, what we actually, really, fear. If our hope is in a fantasy, perhaps it indicates that we feel our reality is hopeless.

Nice that it went flawlessly, the first stage landed back well, and they reached the ISS a bit ahead of time. They even did some intentional back and forth maneuvers to test the dragon. Do they need more tests before the manned flight?

They still need to do an in-flight abort test, which i'm super excited for.

They are going to send the whole thing up a second time (I believe they will be using this EXACT Crew Dragon capsule after it comes back down), but this time they will abort the launch mid-flight around max Q which will trigger the capsule to eject safely away from the explosion behind it.

It's going to be quite the sight, and if everything goes to plan the first stage will basically be blown up and the dragon capsule will rocket away in a "Cool guys don't look at explosions" style!

For anyone that hasn't seen the ground abort test: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_FXVjf46T8

It's pretty rocking.

I wonder if this one is still valid (for the human certification) as it was done with a very different capsule. Wasn't there a new one since?

Yeah the current Crew Dragon is different and needs to be "re-certified" for at least some things. NASA wants the exact configuration used to be validated.

Everyone on /r/spacex keeps flip-flopping on this, but there have been indications SpaceX will try to recover the first stage after the abort.

Should be interesting either way!

Last I heard they weren't even going to have the landing hardware on the booster, but you are right that there are rumblings about how exactly the abort test will happen.

IIRC we know stage 2 is going to be mostly a mass simulator, but not much else.

I read a tweet from Elon that said Stage Two is flight hardware, with the exception of the vaccum Merlin engine that is a mass simulator.

When I was a kid I always thought about what it would be like growing up in the 60s - ultimately watching a man land on the moon. I tried my best to live vicariously through documentaries. I'm humbled to be around during this boom.

Watching a launch live in 1080p? With footage from the craft and booster? Truly amazing.

Amazing achievement. Next step is a successfull return to Earth on 8th March.

> No astronauts or humans were on board the maiden flight, which completed the initial link to the ISS about 5:51 a.m. Eastern time.

Is there a difference?

I'm personally also not sure if space tourists would be referred to as "astronauts" (which might only be the crew).

All astronauts are humans but not all humans are astronauts.

I believe that national origin can make a human a cosmonaut, taikonaut, or spationaut. Are those also astronauts? Not sure.

So the rumours about nasa hiding the aliens were true ...

On a tangent..

if advances in space travel are to be done by private means, does paying company profits become the new tax to do the things that government previously did?

Is there a presumption that the rich/corporations "know whats best" for humanity?

Does anyone else find the title confusing? What's a "Crew Dragon"?

It's a dragon spacecraft, but with configuration for crew. Hence Crew Dragon

To explain a bit more, this is "Dragon 2", the second (major) version of SpaceX's capsule.

It has multiple configurations, one for crew, one for cargo, and possibly others.

This launch was significant as it was the first time they sent the crew configuration up as a demo and had it do automated docking procedures to dock (the old dragon had a more complex and manual docking procedure).

For simplicity sake, they tend to refer to this one as "Crew Dragon" to signify that it's in the crew configuration.

Yet, it was actually redone nearly from scratch and only remotely related to the cargo Dragon.

"Crew Dragon" is what SpaceX is calling the dragon capsule what can carry people. Whether or not that is confusing is the fault of SpaceX, not the title chosen for this article.

Yes, but it’s better than something like Dragon Crew D1 C D 1 (looking at you XBox)

I have a feeling SpaceX intentionally names things kind of weirdly just because it's almost a running joke among fans.

The progression of Falcon 9 rockets is:

* Falcon 9

* Falcon 9 V1.1

* Falcon 9 Full Thrust (also called V1.2 for a small period of time)

* Falcon 9 Fuller Thrust (I think this one was renamed to Block 4 at some point, but I distinctly remember hearing it called "Fuller Thrust" at first)

* Falcon 9 Block 5 (the current version and one that launched this capsule)

And their Dragon capsule has gone through several names as well:

* Dragon (the first version)

* Dragon CRS (an extended version with additional space)

* DragonLab (never flown as far as I know)

* Dragon 2 (cargo only I believe)

* Crew Dragon (the current one that just flew up to ISS, also technically a "Dragon 2" but with a different internal configuration.)

They specifically used names with minor revisions or tweaks in some of those cases to discourage folks from thinking to recertify the whole vehicle. 1.1 for example was basically an entire new vehicle - physically bigger and revamped avionics throughout. No customer wants to be the first to put their three hundred million dollar satellite on an untried platform, but a 0.1 difference? Meh, that’s practically the same thing!

Congratulations to SpaceX!

Is it weird that the title brought only one word into my head: Shadman?

"No astronauts or humans were on board the maiden flight"

This got me giggling too

It looks like we're finally getting the spacecraft we previously only experienced in Sci-fi. It must've been a surreal experience for the astronauts and cosmonaut entering the capsule for the first time.

Congratulation to SpaceX.

That being said, we should take a step back and stop drinking the Elon Musk Koolaid. This has been done flawlessly by Russian Soyouz hundreds of times over the last decades (with almost no failures). This has also been done with the Shuttle.

I think you are underappreciating this in a big way.

Prior to this, the USA did not have the capability to transport astronauts to orbit without working with Russia, and if Russia were to just decide no longer to cooperate for arbitrary diplomatic reasons, we'd be screwed. As you know, the shuttle program was halted some time ago and the vehicle was a total cow the whole time it was in service.

So whereas this has been done before on a technical level, this represents a substantial increase in the USA's actual present space capability, and a major step in reversing the decline of the USA's competence in space.

Also: From a market perspective, this gives agencies such as the ESA a choice about who to work with in order to launch manned flights. That's huge. It's a transition from no competition to competition, and a transition from technological stasis to forward activity. (Soyuz was first launched in the 1960s and we are still using it? It's kind of crazy.)

I assume the Soyuz has developed since the 60s. I mean Ford has had a Mustang since the 60s but the 2018 Mustang is obviously not a '64 Mustang.

From what I know, it's only been minor revisions --- the cost of re-testing/re-certifying anything aerospace is (literally) astronomical.

747 first flight was in 1969.

737 first flight was in 1967.

Both B-52 and Tu-95 first flights were in 1952, both still in service today.

Sometimes problem is solved, and there is no need to solve it again, it would be insane for Russia to abandon Soyuz and develop something new at huge cost.

Docking to the ISS? Sure. But a reusable first stage? That has tremendous implications and had never been done.

SpaceX has been Lansing and reusing first stages for years. Last year they landed 3 at the same time (well ok one had a minor glitch)

The landing of first stage is definitely worth celebrating. But I honestly don't get all the hype about today's news:

- SpaceX already sent multiple times almost the same capsule to the ISS before for cargo. Today's launch is just a small modification of those ones.

- Soyuz is mundanely sending astronauts all the time to ISS.

It isn't almost the same capsule. That was discussed during the post-launch press conference. It's almost a complete redesign and they actually regretted not using more of Dragon 1.

> Today's launch is just a small modification of those ones

No it wasn't. I think you misunderstand what today's mission was about and what it opens for the future. Today's launch was a major departure from Normal SpaceX Activities. Launching a human-rated capsule to space is no "small modification".

> Soyuz is mundanely sending astronauts all the time to ISS.

They have exactly zero (0) vision or plans or constructed spaceships intended to start a Mars Colony. This makes SpaceX activities different from Russia activities in a pretty clear way. When SpaceX achieves a milestone it's a direct stepping stone to colonizing Mars. When Russia sends cosmonauts to the space station, they are sending cosmonauts to the space station and have no future plans. The two things are very different.

Human space flight capabailities have been restored to the United States.

This is a private company.

Elon is the CEO but this victory is about the SpaceX team, not him.

Some of us also need to stop drinking the Elon Musk Haterade.

22 failures / 786 launches

Comparable with falcon 9: 2 failures / 67 launches

Agreed! Notable achievement, but not game-changing.

One thing I remind myself is that Elon really didn't start Tesla. He's been snow balling off initial success and continues to accelerate thanks to collaboration with brilliant people.

Tesla was a utter disaster when Elon took over and would have failed. Making a tiny as car maker into a very large on is 100x harder then starting a little car company and running it into the ground.

Elon didn't start Tesla but he wanted to start a car company when he heard that another company had just started with the same idea so he joined them instead.

Since then he saved Tesla by taking over and investing his own money.

> He's been snow balling off initial success and

I'm sorry but that is just insane. The company was not very successful when he took over, so 'snow balling of early success' is just nonsense.

> continues to accelerate thanks to collaboration with brilliant people.

So like all successful business people/inventors in the history of the world?

Some might argue thats an achievement in itself.

How to be successful? You need to be associated with early stage successful projects. Sometimes it is luck, some people have also talent to discover those early successes.

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