Sticking the Landing: SpaceX

SpaceX deserves its own post here, to say “YAY!! Congratulations!” for sticking the landing on the barge today.    This is my favorite video of the flight so far:   Boo hiss to those who celebrated the four failures and the ones who today (on Twitter, for instance)  claimed the landing was just reverse video.   No, it really happened.   It worked; they landed it, and what can be done once can be done again, and made routine.  I didn’t realize until a good way through the first that after first stage re-ignition, the video alternates views of the first stage and second stages engines.  It becomes obvious when first-stage has a background of blue sky and the second stage has the black of space.

Failure isn’t always (usually) fatal.  The first time I rode a bicycle I fell down.  When I got a much bigger bicycle, I fell down.   Forty years later when I got on my first mountain bike, the first bike I’d ever ridden with multiple gears and handlebar brake controls, I fell down a lot.  Sometimes I still fall down (sharp curves on bumpy trails…especially with thorny vines that catch in a wheel spoke just enough…)  So I figured SpaceX would eventually stick a landing, just didn’t know it would be today.   I expect they’ll have some more failures, too–even when something complicated becomes routine, that doesn’t mean it’s 100% reliable.  Today’s their day to celebrate and I’m gleeful too.


2 thoughts on “Sticking the Landing: SpaceX

  1. I just watched Space X stick their third landing! I had been waiting all my life to see a rocketsreturn from space like that. That is the way RAH said it should be done!
    I teach technology at a high school and a College and we have trouble getting kids into technology.
    I show them the video of the factory workers reaction when Space X did the first landing at the Cape. I helped a little bit with some Boeing rockets and it is pretty amazing to realize that you helped do that.

    1. Pat: A long time ago I worked one summer as a draftsman for a small electrical-testing company that designed and built equipment to test (for instance) small electric motors in cars that ran variable-speed windshield washers. I had a great experience seeing actual machines built from drawings I’d made (I did both line and pictorial wiring diagrams, and presentation drawings of finished equipment) and then knowing that these machine went out the door to be used in big factories elsewhere. Not as impressive as “helped a little bit with Boeing rockets” (I’d have been thrilled at that!!) but yes, the feeling of being part of a team producing something useful–and for me, in a field I’d never known about until then–was amazing. (Back then no computer drafting–I had a big slanted drafting table, pencils and pens, a T-square, triangles, and I think I had a drafting machine (whose name I’ve forgotten–learned to use it in my mother’s office), a LeRoy lettering set, etc.)

      You may already be doing this, but have you considered using Twitter to help you find STEM stuff that could inspire your students? I know it’s often considered a time-waster or just a series of pile-ons–and if you wander into politics or social issues, it can be–but if you seek out and follow science/technology accounts there are plenty of links that might be useful to you. One warning: scientists get way too many “I have a term paper and I have to interview a scientist so answer these questions so I can make a good grade” kinds of contacts from students whose teachers have assigned them to write/email a scientist (or writer, or other professional person.) Please don’t do that. The scientists I follow are as busy as you, or your students, or more so: they do research, they teach (which means counseling and grading papers and so on), and they have write grant applications…they do engage in outreach, but on their schedule, not “and I need it by Friday.”

      Just following Richard Garriott, though, you’ll find links to nifty tech stuff, and not just in computer gaming or space: he’s also involved in the development of a new form of urban public transit. Reading tweets and trying out included links has taught me a lot about the good, the bad, and the ordinary in the sciences and some areas of technology. For awhile this morning I was watching the attempt to expand BEAM on the ISS…fascinating technology & indicative of the difficulties of designing something to work in an environment you can’t test it in. Feel free to check out my Twitter account–which isn’t all STEM–and you’ll find Hope Jarhen–biologist out of Minnesota, now in Hawaii and soon to move to Norway, who’s written a book about her experiences: LAB GIRL. Karen James, doing DNA barcoding (among other things) in Maine. Stephen Heard, fish ecologist in Canada, who’s written THE SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WRITING, as well as a delightful bog, SCIENTIST SEES SQUIRREL Andrew Hendry, eco-evolutionary dynamics, also in Canada at Redpath U., who’s written a series of articles to help undergrads, graduate students, etc. navigate the maze of post-grad science, Anne Hilborn, wildlife biologist who’s done research on cheetahs in the Serengeti, etc. Feel free to check out my Twitter stream to snag the Twitter IDs for any of these, and others.

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