The Dragon Flies

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot      June 26, 2020

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The Dragon Flies

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I have had a love affair with the Columbia Space Shuttle and the whole NASA space program, but I was beyond pissed today—the day after the extraordinary launch of Crew Dragon, the United States’ first human-carrying spacecraft designed by a private company—because I was unable to find any video or broadcast updates on its successful docking with the International Space Station, delivering two American astronauts safe and sound. This historic launch is a grand, paradigm shift into a “whole new world of economic activity in space, with private organizations doing what once required an entire nation to do, creating new opportunities for experimentation and discovery,” according to Tim Fernholz, writing for Quartz (qz.com), but,the magnitude of this great achievement was overshadowed as the nation erupted in angry violent reactions to the George Lloyd murder in Minneapolis. I am sad for the children who did not get to experience the collective, inspirational thrill of exploration, discovery and daring my own children so vividly experienced with the beautiful maiden flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia, especially after our long months of quarantine which have taken a toll on everyone’s spirits. This was a monumental leap forward into the future! A whole new era of space travel! Possibilities abound! Let’s celebrate now!! A Little History The Dragon space capsule is a re-usable, cargo carrying space craft designed and built by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s private space transportation company. The original, un-manned Dragon has had many successful missions delivering supplies to and from the International Space Station. The Dragon spacecraft, designed to survive re-entry, not only delivers cargo, but is able to return to Earth carrying cargo back. It carries pressurized and unpressurized payloads, live (like lab mice) or inanimate cargo. Boosted into space by SpaceX’s mighty Falcon rocket, the Crew Dragon’s historic manned flight can also claim the recovery of the first private spacecraft booster that has ever delivered human astronauts to space. According to SpaceX, the Falcon 9 is the “world’s first orbital-class reusable rocket,” a feature the company says will help to cut down the cost of space access. The rocket stands at a mighty 230 feet tall and carries a mass of a whopping 1.2 million pounds. Talk about recycling—Holy Moly! Inside the Capsule The Crew Dragon capsule has a high-tech, black-and-white, clean, sleek, minimalist design. It is roomy and uncluttered. It is 27 feet tall and 13 feet wide. There are carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth cushioned seats tilted up toward a touch screen, which replaces all the buttons, switches and knobs from the Apollo/Shuttle days. Touch-screen technology provides real time data for the astronauts from where the craft is in space to information about the environment inside the capsule. Crew members can monitor the interior environment with an Environmental Control and Life Support System, and they can set the onboard temperature between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There are four windows for the astronauts…that feature goes back to the Apollo days when the early astronauts successfully fought for a view. The capsule can carry seven passengers.
The spacesuit the astronauts wear in the capsule is as new as the interior design. The futuristic, sleek white-with-black-trim very thin and light suit is designed by Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez (Captain America, Wonder Woman, Batman). What?! Don’t worry. It is a super functional new breed of spacesuit. NASA describes it: “The spacesuit is custom-made for each passenger aboard Crew Dragon and is designed to be functional, lightweight, and to offer protection from potential depressurization. A single connection point on the suit’s thigh attaches life support systems, including air and power connections. The helmet is custom manufactured using 3D printing technology and includes integrated valves, mechanisms for visor retraction and locking, and microphones within the helmet’s structure. The custom-tailored suits include touchscreen compatible gloves, a flame-resistant outer layer and provides pressurization with a controlled environment for the crew in atypical situations, such as cabin depressurization. The suit also routes communications and cooling systems to the astronauts during flight.”
Oh, that Elon! How I would love to have lunch with him…I love the guy!

Return to Earth
The astronauts carried to the International Space Station on Crew Dragon will spend one to four months in space. Their safe return to Earth will be the cap on the success of the mission. As the capsule gets closer to Earth, the spacecraft will jettison its trunk. “The trunk is a cylindrical, finned module that contains the spacecraft’s built-in solar arrays and other equipment required for its flights to and from the space station,” according to space.com.

The heat shield will protect the astronauts during the fiery re-entry. Once clear of that phase, four Mark 3 parachutes will carry the capsule to a gentle splashdown,
recovery crews from SpaceX’s GO Navigator ship will collect the crew and capsule and return to Cape Canaveral. If that all goes well, a new era of commercial space travel has begun.

TO THE STARS AND BEYOND!
Where are we going with all this? Into the future, my friends. We are going to build a base on the moon. We are going to put fantastic telescopes on the moon...they
are ready and waiting, and we will see deeper into space than Galileo ever dreamed. From the moon, we are going to send persons to Mars. Four seats have already been
booked for the first commercial passenger flight around the Earth. Plans are in the works for an orbiting hotel. Oh, Dr. Seuss, “the places we’ll go!” I so want children to
know this and dream of their place in it!

This excitement, this thrill...this breaking the bonds of negativity and gravity... this amazing private/public partnership...this capitalism at its best...this inspiring, joyful, awesome, courageous event...done in the messy transparency of our crazy, wonderful culture...this rising above into the ether...the unknown....the irresistible future!!
Vamos a ver!
Paula Labrot

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