CAPE CANVERAL, FLORIDA – In the aftermath of a completely nominal and successful Falcon 9 launch of Crew Dragon on it’s historic DM-2 crewed flight, a well deserved party ensued in the VAB at Kennedy Space Center. There was much jovial celebrating among the NASA and SpaceX personnel as their respective journeys to the age defining moment when America once again used domestically produced hardware to reach and operate in orbit.
The party began with a well spoken NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine who gave appropriate accolades to both previous NASA Administrator General Charlie Bolden and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who was in attendance. Without Bolden’s perseverance in the early days of the Commercial Crew programs, the program would not be as far along as it is today. While Jim Bridenstine is not ultimately responsible for the creation of the Commercial Crew program, but effectively uses Twitter and other technologies to connect the public with the inner workings of NASA, something he is to be commended for.
Finally President Trump came on the stage after a segue speech by Vice President Pence. If his goal was to drain the excitement and celebratory nature of NASA and SpaceX’s achievement out of the room, he was successful. Within minutes he had spoken on the national outcry in the George Floyd case, decrying the violence and demanding justice. After that he went into a campaign style self-congratulatory hum drum, which is his style.
He spoke of a dead NASA being revived by his administration. In truth, NASA was in a transitional phase moving toward the Commercial Crew Era. Launch Complex 39A was in the process of a much needed overhaul to support SpaceX’s needs. Launch Complex 39B was also under renovation to support Space Launch System.
He spoke of his administration’s achievement in this program. In actuality the Commercial Crew program began under Barack Obama and was an extension of the Commercial Cargo program started during the Bush administration. While he denigrated Obama’s administration for shuttering the Shuttle program, which was a decision made under the Bush Administration after the Columbia shuttle disaster.
In general, the President rambled on, barely talking about space except to laud praise on his Space Force initiative and his Artemis announcement. When given an ample opportunity to make an announcement which could have real impact on the future of spaceflight, Trump fumbled the ball. When given a chance to unify the country with such a public feat, he instead campaigned. By the end of his 30-minutes of fluff, I personally felt sad that such a remarkable moment was wasted.
The one bright side of party beside Administrator Bridenstine’s remarks was the moment when they called out SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Musk looked exactly how you would expect an engineer and CEO to look after accomplishing a 20-year mission. This accomplishment and all the accolades belong to Elon Musk for having a vision and the wherewithal to see it to its ultimate conclusion. In that, the President was correct. When Musk could have been out yachting, he put his money and time into making the world a better place by lowering the cost of launch.
Next Horizons Spaceflight’s Matt Cutshall and Stephen Marr were both present for the speeches and caught some amazing photos of the proceedings. Please check out our gallery and check out our sponsor below.