I’ve been wanting to write down my thoughts about SpaceX for a while now. More precisely, ever since I read Phil Plait’s article about visiting the SpaceX headquarters. The accident last Sunday, where a Falcon 9 burned up shortly after takeoff, triggered me into sitting down and actually write them down.
Plait’s article is really worth a read if you haven’t done so. In it, Plait summarized his discussion with Elon Musk about the reason for starting SpaceX. For the uninitiated, the goal of SpaceX is formulated as the following on their website (my bold):
The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. spacex.com/about
Plait joked about Musk having founded SpaceX because he wanted to retire on Mars, which Musk quickly corrected. That was just something he said when a journalist was pressing him for a quote. When Plait asked what the actual reason was, Musk answered simply:
Humans need to be a multiplanet species. Elon Musk
Not “should be” or “it would be nice if we were”. No, we need to be a multiplanet species for our longterm survival.
This resonated quite strongly with me. Even if we set aside the blatant disregard we’re currently showing for the only Earth we have, there are still a multitude of natural disasters that can wipe us out from the universe’s timeline. Basically, we need an off-site backup for humanity in order to secure our longterm survival.
With this goal in mind, the work SpaceX is doing is extremely important on a larger timescale. Which is why I was saddened by Sunday’s accident (imagine then how Elon Musk is feeling, it happened on his birthday, really crappy birthday present). Currently, it looks like there was a problem just before the first stage separation was to take place. SpaceX hasn’t yet released any info other than Elon Musk’s tweet:
There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Data suggests counterintuitive cause.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 28, 2015
I hope this doesn’t hamper SpaceX’s progress too much. The work they’re doing is really important and the whole of humanity would be poorer for it, should they fail.