Earlier this week, the California-based space transport company successfully launched “Grasshopper,” a rocket that is entirely reusable after the initial launch. Designed for vertical takeoff and landing, the fairly large rocket was successfully propelled 12 stories into the air, after which it momentarily hovered and safely landed back on the ground, all in the span of 29 seconds.
While this isn’t necessarily a demonstration for actual space travel (seeing as how this grasshopper only leaped the distance of an elevator) what’s more important is that this rocket can be reused in its entirety. Currently, traditional space vehicles can be only partially reused and even that isn’t an option every time.
Therefore, it is safe to say, “You have done well, young grasshopper. You have done well done indeed.”
What makes this an even more interesting development is that SpaceX is a privately held company, and a successful one at that. They were, in fact, the first privately held company to send a cargo payload to the International Space Station. So, it naturally follows that this raises a few questions about the role of private companies versus governmental institutions.
Whenever we imagine space, the word NASA instantly comes to mind. Their list of achievements is nothing short of staggering and while it’s common knowledge that NASA put up satellites for our long-range communication, you would be surprised of all the other things they established that we use in our daily lives.
Invisible braces? NASA. Scratch-resistant lenses? NASA. Ear thermometer? NASA. Water Filters? NASA. Essentially, everything that geeky, sickly, germ phobic nerds carry, it’s all because of NASA.
Yet, people often argue that development should be in the hands of private entities, even though major parts of our daily lives have been governmentally funded. Now, to be fair, a list of everything we use that has been developed by a private company would require pages of text. And while that does say something about just how much we consume, it still shows that private companies play just as gigantic a role as the government.
Perhaps the difference here is that when a private company brings something out, the reaction is “Shut up and take my money!” When the government releases something, I’ve already paid for it and that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get it.
Either way, I’m not quite in the income bracket to be directly affected by tax rates. My concern is that SpaceX has done something positive, which is to attempt saving money in an expensive field. If they achieve successful orbital flight and landing while maintaining complete reusability, I think it would only work for the better because technologies often start exclusively in one place but expand into the industry. So, just as Netflix and Hulu are now watchable on everything except the back of your hand, SpaceX’s success could very easily come to NASA.
As a taxpayer or just someone who wants science to move forward, that’s all for the good.