Fans of Social Media and NewSpace have a rare opportunity to tweet about their passion – and experience history. Their chance will come as Space Explorations Technologies works to conduct the second demonstration flight under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS contract. However, spaces are limited, only 50 social media followers will be selected to be present for the launch, currently scheduled to take place at 9:38 a.m. EDT on May 7.
Registration for this event is, unfortunately, already closed (registration closed on April, 6). Followers of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ were eligible.
The NASA Social will take place May 6-7 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) located in Florida. If the NASA ‘Tweetups’ held prior to this are any indication, NASA will have special guests including officials and astronauts with the space agency to discuss how commercial space efforts are proceeding. NASA recently won the “Shorty” award for the space agency’s Twitter efforts. This marked the third straight year that NASA has walked away with this prize.
SpaceX will be launching one of the private space firm’s Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. This will be the first time a private company has attempted this feat. The Hawthorne, Calif., based company lobbied for and received permission to combine the second and third demonstration flights – into one. If everything goes according to plan SpaceX will have completed the three demonstration flight requirement under the $1.6 billion COTS contract – in just two missions.
For those lucky few who win a spot on the social, tours of NASA facilities will be on the itinerary as will opportunities to speak with representatives from both NASA and SpaceX. This will culminate with the launch of the Falcon 9 – potentially into history. Only U.S. citizens were allowed to register.
Some of the more challenging components of this dual-mission include flying under the space station to test out the Dragon’s sensors and flight systems that are vital to conduct safe rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory. Next, the crew on board the station will attempt to grapple the commercial spacecraft and berth it the Earth-facing node of the Harmony Module. This is the same port that the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) HTV spacecraft is berthed to.
It is hoped that the crew will be able to successfully off-load the supplies. If all goes occurring to plan, the Dragon will then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and conduct a splash down in the Pacific Ocean, just off the California Coast. This will make it unique amongst all of the other cargo vessels that fly to the station, the European ATV, Russian Progress and HTV – are all expendable and thus burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
The COTS program was initiated under the Bush Administration in 2006. Technical support as well as financial assistance has been provided to encourage commercial firms such as SpaceX and Orbital Science’s Corporation to produce viable spacecraft. It is hoped that these firms will then be able to takeover low-Earth-orbit (LEO) operations while NASA focuses on sending crews beyond LEO.
So very nice of NASA to host it’s own “Going Away Party.” Elon will now be doing the LEO launches so NASA can “focus on missions beyond LEO”. But wait, Elon has publicly announced several times that he plans to build a heavy-lift launch vehicle, and plans to go to Mars. Who needs bureaucratic, cumbersome, decrepit NASA when the new, modern, efficient Musk Space Program can get us to Mars cheaper and quicker, and maybe even make profit doing so. Maybe the opportunity to be the first person on Mars can be auctioned off to some wealthy individual? Maybe a media corporation will pay big money to have Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton or a Kardashian to be the first on Mars? We don’t need to funnel taxpayer dollars to Musk through NASA – cut out the wasteful middleman and give the NASA budget directly to SpaceX as the “privatizers” want. Of course, there will be those large corporate salaries, bonus plans, executive benefits and stock dividends to pay, but at least NASA will be “privatized” (with taxpayer subsidies). Gov. Romney has said he wants to eliminate several unnecessary government departments like Housing and Urban Development, so why not start with NASA? How many Americans have heard of the Space Launch System or Orion? How many know what it is supposed to do or where it is supposed to go? How many care? A government program that is unknown, is not a race against “THEM” like Apollo, is an easy target for budget cuts. Most people think that the space program ended with the pretty pictures of the Space Shuttles being flown to museums. With “The Economy”, most Americans would rather fix potholes than fly to Mars.