A Week of Peaks and Valleys

This past week was interesting from my point of view at work.

Peaks and valleys: I listened to Inspirational words regarding space exploration, and saw back to back accidents, one of which took a life..

It was certainly a tough week for a few Commercial Aerospace Companies. Orbital, Virgin Galactic, and Scaled Composites all had setbacks. From an Antares Rocket with payload for the ISS exploding seconds after lift off to Spaceshiptwo breaking up over the Mojave Desert with a loss of one life and serious injuries to another, both disasters contain many lessons to be learned.

My heart goes out to the test pilot who gave his life for the pursuit of sub-orbital flight, and I wish a speedy recovery to the other pilot who was able to parachute prior to the crash.

“Space is Hard” was repeated many times this week from those in the Space Industry.


The week started with an upbeat press conference on Monday, at NASA, Marshall Space Flight Center with the three NASA Exploration Systems Programs, Space Launch System (SLS), Orion, and Ground Systems, giving an update on progress of work towards deep space exploration. Everything is progressing, a good sign.


Tuesday was the Antares “mishap” (as NASA labelled it), My wife and I watched about 5 minutes of the mainstream media getting many things wrong before I turned off the TV and waited for the Press Conference later that night. We concluded the investigation will take awhile.


Wednesday brought the annual, Von Braun Memorial Dinner, which is the one classy affair I look forward to each year. This year the keynote speaker was Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of the European Space Agency (ESA). Earlier in the evening, prior to his remarks, I was thoroughly enjoying myself with colleagues, customers (NASA), Corporate heads (the Company I work for mostly), and spouse (my wife, Kathryn, was more stunning than normal that evening).

As Mr. Dordain took the podium I hadn’t really thought much about listening to what he had to say, I was still wrapped up in all the festivities of the party.

This changed when I heard him speak about the United States role of leadership in Space. I immediately started taking notes on my Iphone. Here is a recap of what I heard:

Everyone is waiting on the US. They have always been in the lead. They are the leaders, and the rest of the world is waiting for them.

Cooperation is much more difficult than Competition. Competing with the Soviet Union to see who would reach the moon first was much easier than today, with the ISS and the partnering countries relationships.

And finally, don’t make the destinations too far and too long to get to, for the youth of today are not going to wait. (It’s ok, and makes sense to go back to the moon)

Director General Dordain said many other things, some very difficult to understand due to his thick French accent, but these main points, I got. I could go on and on about how screwed up the current U.S. space policy is due to the dysfunction of some of those in political power, but I won’t, that’s for someone else to write.

The words I heard were powerful and inspirational.

On Friday, when Spaceshiptwo crashed the Twitterverse exploded with the news. I had taken most of the day off, but took notice when I started seeing the tweets concerning the crash. This was an even worse tragedy since a human life was lost.

This week we suddenly saw leaders in a fledgling suborbital and commercial space industry, having to address a tragic situation. Is the resolve there to continue, and see it through to successful flights again?

I most certainly hope and pray this is so.



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