Mon, 08 Oct 2012 - Updated at end. The second mission is now underway.
Yesterday (Friday, 25 May 2012) was my 70th birthday and, as an avid believer in our future in space, consider that day's news as the best present imaginable.
A commercial space vehicle has not just taken baby steps into space, but delivered cargo to the International Space Station.
See Dragon Docks and the commercial space era begins, by Jerry Pournelle.
Wordwise, there's nothing I can add to Dr. Pournelle's post, but I'm fond of pictures.
So, I scrounged up a couple ...
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launcher lifts off carrying the Dragon capsule,
early morning 22 May 2012 from Cape Canaveral, Florida,
to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.
Photo from a.scpr.org
I truly believe we are on the right path, and on our way.
Update - Friday, 01 Jun 2012 - It's back. Here's some more pictures.
Yesterday (Thursday, 31 May 2012), the Dragon capsule successfully returned to earth.
So, I found these to add to the post:
It was launched Tuesday AM, 22 May 2012. On Friday, 25 May 2012 ...
Photo from redorbit.com
... here it is closing in the the ISS (International Space Station). Three days to match orbits? Well, it can be done faster (and has), but when it's just cargo that ain't whining, "Are we there yet?", you're apt to go for a more leisurely and energy-efficient path. Also, some of that time was used for various tests in orbit.
In space ...
... there ain't no "up" or "down". It's all relative. At the bottom of this photo is part of the ISS. Rising up from it is one of the specialized robotic manipulator arms the Canadians appear to have a lock on. It's used to grab this (or any other) spacecraft and pull it down to the docking hatch.
After docking ...
... two of the ISS astronauts went inside to check things out (later followed by others). The protective masks and goggles are routine when entering any spacecraft that has arrived (I'm guessing because of the combination of zero gravity and possible exposure to vacuum resulting in particulate matter, from cargo and God knows what else, being suspended in the air when it is opened up. That's a pure guess on my part. I've got a lot of things on my plate right now, and haven't had a chance to research that yet.).
I had to do a double check of the diagram of the capsule, as that appeared to be a big damned door, but it really is the docking hatch that you are looking at there, with the capsule interior behind them. We've come a looong way since the Mercury capsule. :-)
On Thursday, 31 May 2012 ...
Photo from mashable,com
... after its nine-day odyssey, Dragon returns, to land in the Pacific about 500 miles west of Baja California. The photo is supposed to be from a video provided by NASA. I say "supposed" because I'm not at all sure what I'm seeing in the background. But, they could have caught it very high up, using a very long lens - they have some dandies!
Recovered, and by now probably on its way to the Port of Los Angeles, from whence it will be sent to a processing plant SpaceX has in McGregor, Texas (between Waco and Ft. Hood), for a final inspection.
Future missions are planned to come down on land, using retro rockets to soften the landing, and (hopefully) will be able to do it with "helicopter-like" precision.
Addendum - Saturday, 02 Jun 2012 - The Astronomy Picture of the Day site put up a video the day after launch. It's a Flash video, just under two minutes, and might take awhile to load on a slow connection (like mine). As there's a delay of five or six seconds between ignition and hearing the sound, the video was shot around a mile from the pad.
See SpaceX's Falcon 9 Launches to the Space Station .
Update, 0115 CDT, Mon, 08 Oct 2012 - The second of these missions is now underway. About six hours ago, it lifted off at Cape Canaveral, Florida at 2035 EDT (1935 CDT), Sunday, 07 Oct 2012 in what was described on NASA TV as a picture perfect launch. It is now in low Earth orbit.
Once again, so far, so good. :-)