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SpaceX's Dragon Module Successfully Re-Enters 156

Posted by timothy
from the go-go-spacex-crew dept.
Zitchas writes "Following the news of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon module on-board, and its arrival on orbit, we now have the news that is has successfully re-entered the atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific. As their website proudly claims, this is the first time a private corporation has recovered a spacecraft they orbited, joining the ranks of a few space nations and the EU space agency. A great step forward for space travel. Hopefully everything continues to go well for them."
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SpaceX's Dragon Module Successfully Re-Enters

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  • I hope SpaceX eventually fields the first commercial nuclear propelled spaceship! :-)
  • by Vectormatic (1759674) on Friday December 10, 2010 @09:10AM (#34513194)

    but wasnt this already reported in the launch thread? it only did two orbits, so the total flight time was a few hours.

    Two days news turn-around is something one would expect from a news-paper in the good old telex days, not a website in 2010

    Back on topic, awesome achievement! kudos to the SpaceX guys

  • Okay, we have proven we can orbit the Earth successfully for the past 37 years. NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.

    Whatever happened to our pioneering spirit in space? Are we just going to build un-manned shuttles and satellites for the next 50 years?

    Our scientific missions seemed a lot more important and interesting on the moon with Apollo 17 in 1972. [wikimedia.org]
    • by amn108 (1231606)

      No, 'we' haven't proven much. Some governmental agencies around the world have proven that THEY can orbit the Earth, while you and I haven't done all that much to participate in that (buttefly effect does not count for much here.) SpaceX is a first here. Generalization - tool of choice of any critic.

      • I don't see how are we more part of a private company for which most of us don't work or hold shares of, compared to a public project paid by us all.

        Not a criticism to SpaceX - I think achieving commercial viability is indispensable for future exploration, at least in our current economic system. But I'm not them.

        • by Teancum (67324)

          Until now the only place you could throw money down on the table to buy a ride into space was with RKK Energia and flying out of the Baikonur Cosmodrome. That was especially sad as it seems the former communists are the only ones who seem to understand capitalism and trying to fill a market demand.

          SpaceX is the first American company to do so, as none of the other spacecraft manufacturers were even permitted, as a matter of law, to be able to sell their spacecraft except to government agencies where only t

    • Well, as reported elsewhere... If SpaceX can secure the funding they will design and build a super heavy lift which would give them capability of 120mT - 140mT to orbit. They're floating a fixed price of $2.5B for development and building the initial flight hardware. That's cheap compared to the current proposals for heavy lift vehicles that NASA is floating. If they can arrange for the funding, that gives us a vehicle in the Saturn V class (again) and it's game on.
      • a fixed price of $2.5B for development and building the initial flight hardware

        I'm sure Paul Allen can scrape that much together. If he's not overly invested in Virgin Galactic.

      • If SpaceX can secure the funding they will design and build a super heavy lift which would give them capability of 120mT - 140mT to orbit.

        It took me several tries not to read this as "120-140 Millitesla",
        which this unit abbreviation resolves to in the SI system.

        Way to even use non-standard unit symbols for standard units.

    • by s31523 (926314)
      There is no money in getting back to the moon, at least at this point. The principle driving force of the commercial space program is the generation of profit... Perfecting the space "tour" is what seems to be the first goal so the commercial company can get a cash cow going. I believe that the commercial space program will eventually want to get to the moon (and beyond), but right now I think it is all about just getting into space in manner that provides profit potential.
      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        The moon would make a great place for rich old geezers to retire. At 1/6th Earth's gravity, granny wouldn't need that walker.

    • by phrisbee98 (1956604) on Friday December 10, 2010 @09:47AM (#34513444)
      The achievements themselves (launch, orbit, reentry) are not nearly as significant as the COST to perform these operations. Apollo and the shuttle cost many billions to develop. This company developed 2 rockets, a capsule, launch operations and production lines for roughly $600 Million. Barring a major Earth catastrophe, cost reduction is the only way to accelerate our reach into the stars.
    • What does "pioneering spirit" mean? I think in the formation of the USA it meant overcoming hardship to get land and become rich?

      If this is what you mean I am guessing the bankers, entrepreneurs etc reckon there's better promise on good returns to be made down here, possibly with the exception of Richard Branson who reckons sub orbital flight will make him some money.

      As for science, that's maybe a different issue from pioneering? I am sure the scientists would like some more money to do more space science b

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday December 10, 2010 @10:48AM (#34513930) Homepage Journal

      Our scientific missions seemed a lot more important and interesting on the moon with Apollo 17 in 1972.

      The moon landings weren't really about science, they were about engineering and national pride. The Russians launched the first satellite, the first man in space, and the first man in orbit; we needed to beat them to the moon and prove that we could keep going there.

      We've gotten far more and better science with unmanned space missions.

      • by MBGMorden (803437)

        We've gotten far more and better science with unmanned space missions.

        Not necessarily from the moon. From Mars? Sure. Of course we've gotten more data from the unmanned missions because *that's the only thing that's been there*.

        The rovers have been a wonderful success, and the data they've brought back is invaluable, but realistically, what they've accomplished in YEARS could have been done by a human on the ground in a day or two max.

        Unmanned exploration should be seen as a forerunner to manned. Something we send out in advance of our arrival, not instead of it.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Don't get me wrong, I'm all for manned missions. I'm just pointing out that we can get a lot of science done without manning every mission. Here's [nasa.gov] the NASA page on moon science.

          The rovers have been a wonderful success, and the data they've brought back is invaluable, but realistically, what they've accomplished in YEARS could have been done by a human on the ground in a day or two max.

          It takes more than a day or two to return from Mars. AND, the rover mission was scheduled to last six months. A six month ma

        • by Gravatron (716477)
          Bingo. Lets the bots do the grunt work, so that why you finally have spaceboots on the ground, they have clear, well defined objectives, so they can do the maximum amount of science during their stay on the surface.
        • by winwar (114053)

          "Of course we've gotten more data from the unmanned missions because *that's the only thing that's been there*."

          That's the fucking point. It's also the only thing that has a realistic chance of going there in my lifetime. Which people don't seem to want to understand or accept.

          I have no doubt that a human could do a massive amount of science on Mars. It would also cost a massive amount of money that we aren't going to spend. As a geologist I would love to see it happen. I also know it is the definition

      • by khallow (566160)

        The moon landings weren't really about science

        Yet we got a lot of science out of them. So much in fact, that nobody has bothered to put an unmanned mission on the Moon since.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Yes, we did get quite a bit of science of of them, despite the fact that that's not what they were really for.

          • by khallow (566160)

            Yes, we did get quite a bit of science of of them, despite the fact that that's not what they were really for.

            I think we both agree on that. The point I'm making is that motive and goals are not tied to scientific outcome. This is particularly relevant to your claim that the US's unmanned missions have been better scientifically than its manned ones. As I see it, the Apollo program has done more to expand our knowledge of the Solar System outside of the Sun than the rest of space science missions put together. Yes, it's bigger than all the rest put together. Here's the key two words: "sample return".

            Currently, a

            • by Teancum (67324)

              Adding to this, by having a professionally trained and competent geologist actually there on the Moon, able to hand pick samples, putting them into geological context with other rocks, and to literally run his fingers through the regolith, and to even smell and taste the samples (something video doesn't do a really good job of)... I don't see how that is possible to duplicate something of that nature with a robotic probe. The proposal to have a tele-operated humanoid robot on the Moon does sound like somet

      • by nametaken (610866) *

        We've gotten far more and better science with unmanned space missions

        You're right of course, and the pursuit of knowledge is great. And we certainly use much of what we learn for applications here on Earth. It's just that many believe those missions should be working up to something spectacular and inspiring. For example, feats that appear to herald space travel resembling what we see in science fiction. A silly dream in the short term of course, but that's why the Virgin Galactic and SpaceX flights are

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        Thank Beejus we've taken national pride and replaced it with national shame.

    • by Zitchas (713512) on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:00AM (#34514050) Journal

      The point, I think, is to get the government institutions (who are the ones who don't have to make money at things) OUT of the business of doing repetitious, potentially profitable things. Like putting satellites into orbit, doing ISS supply runs, and other generic things that are pretty much routine these days.

      If they are barred from doing easy stuff, maybe they will take their budget where it is supposed to go: into exploration and the development of new things, things that the the private industry won't do because there is no profit there yet.

    • Okay, we have proven we can orbit the Earth successfully for the past 37 years. NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.
      Whatever happened to our pioneering spirit in space? Are we just going to build un-manned shuttles and satellites for the next 50 years?

      NASA/US Government, yes, done, out of the game. They'll say otherwise, but look at behaviors, not rhetoric.

      Enter SpaceX... private industry will now make the manned advances. Elon Musk can now fund Moon R&D with revenues from comm

    • by khallow (566160)

      Okay, we have proven we can orbit the Earth successfully for the past 37 years. NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.

      SpaceX's current launch is a key step to regaining that capability that the US lost in the 70s.

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        A big step - only two more launches and the capsule is man rated, and we have a seven person scaled up version of an Apollo atop a Saturn Ib, easily capable of reaching the ISS with a full crew. Then all we need is a new version of the Saturn V, and we have essentially all the capability we lost in the 70's and 80's, scaled by 7/3rds. (OK, to do an actual lunar mission, we need a LEM, but there, exact duplicates of the original, flawless design would do - let's hope the Gruman design sheets are still around

        • by FleaPlus (6935)

          > (OK, to do an actual lunar mission, we need a LEM, but there, exact duplicates of the original, flawless design would do - let's hope the Gruman design sheets are still around).

          As I mentioned in another comment, during the press conference Elon Musk said that the next-generation Dragon will be capable of powered landings. This would allow it to function as, or at least serve as a predecessor to, a lunar lander (or even Mars lander).

        • by AJWM (19027)

          (OK, to do an actual lunar mission, we need a LEM, but there, exact duplicates of the original, flawless design would do - let's hope the Gruman design sheets are still around).

          For that matter there's at least one still around that was never used. (Wouldn't be flightworthy, but it could be reverse engineered.) But while the Block II LMs were pretty darn good, I'd go with lighter electronics and lithium hydroxide canisters that matched the ones in the command module (ie Dragon) -- just in case.

    • by simula (1032230)
      One of the goals of SpaceX is to not only put a human on Mars (Elon Musk is shooting for 2020), but to make space flight affordable enough to allow people to move to Mars.

      “One of the long-term goals of SpaceX is, ultimately, to get the price of transporting people and product to Mars to be low enough and with a high enough reliability that if somebody wanted to sell all their belongings and move to a new planet and forge a new civilisation they could do so.”

      Elon Musk: 'I'm planning to retur [thelonggoodread.com]
    • by hey! (33014)

      There's an island a few miles off the coast of New England that's a popular destination for sea kayakers. They have proven that we can perform a successful traversal to and from that island. NOW they have have to move on to going to Greenland and back.

      See how extravagant that mode of argument is? It's not that the Greenland expedition isn't worth somebody's attention, but if it is ever done it will be done for entirely different reasons. And if those guys really need to go to Greenland, they have a more pr

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      NOW we have to move on to landing back on the Moon and Mars.

      Whatever happened to our pioneering spirit in space? Are we just going to build un-manned shuttles and satellites for the next 50 years?

      And the fact we have robots crawling around the surface of Mars, and orbiters studying the depths of the Venusian atmosphere, doesn't impress you?

      Sending meaty fleshy humans to distant worlds is exciting, and certainly can get things done. But in terms of pure science, I think we're following the right track with our robots. There's not much scientific gain in sending yet another can of humans to the Moon; you get far more scientific bang for your buck with swarms of probes.

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      First off, watch the post-mission SpaceX/NASA press conference [youtube.com]. There's written notes here [hobbyspace.com]. A few relevant points made by Elon Musk:

      * The heat shield on the Dragon capsule is massively overengineered to survive not only reentry velocities from low-Earth orbit, but also the much faster velocities from Lunar or Martian return trajectories.

      * Instead of solely relying on parachutes, the next generation of the Dragon capsule will incorporate thrusters which will allow it to make a precise landing on the ground,

  • by CompressedAir (682597) on Friday December 10, 2010 @09:26AM (#34513280)

    The POIC (and probably every other NASA center with a TV) had the launch up on the big screen. Scott Kelly, the USOS crew on the ISS right now, took a break and watched it live on the feed we sent up to him between LOS's.

    Scott asked CAPCOM to give the SpaceX team his congratulations on a successful launch. We in the ISS community are doubly excited: not only is it great to see such a flawless launch, but the Dragon/Falcon 9 is key to our future logistics and science return!

    Well done, SpaceX.

  • by Fieryphoenix (1161565) on Friday December 10, 2010 @10:36AM (#34513822)
    I heard that a wheel sized sample of the lunar surface was successfully recovered and delivered to earth.
  • Not as much fun as it could be. But hey, they would have gotten a sample back for testing. Nice.

  • EU != ESA (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 10, 2010 @11:16AM (#34514160)

    The summary seems to indicate that there is an European Union (EU) space agency. Although many members of EU are members of the ESA, not all EU members are members of ESA, and there are members of the ESA that are not members of the EU (Norway and Switzerland).

    • by damburger (981828)

      Beat me to the punch. Lots of people mix up the EU and the ESA, same as the mix up the EU and the Eurozone.

      What NASA, ESA and USSR/Russia have done that SpaceX thus far hasn't is automated docking. That's not a trivial step at all (the Chinese, for instance, haven't done it yet, and are taking their sweet time making sure they get it right). Presumably they've got plans in this regard if they want to resupply the ISS.

      As impressive as it is, really these days its a question of time and money, and having a fa

      • by Teancum (67324)

        I have heard some people talk about trying to put some more direct EU involvement into the ESA, as there are projects which can benefit the European Union as a whole which involve spaceflight. Nothing serious and I do understand where the confusion comes from.

        Like almost all pan-European organizations, not everything is nearly as clear as it would seem and most European organizations are not nearly as tightly run from a central bureaucracy like is the case in America... which is certainly where much of the

  • This is my prediction: SpaceX will choose Elon to be the first private citizen of a private space flight to orbit the earth within the next 5 years.
    • by Teancum (67324)

      Elon has already said he would turn down the chance. The argument he made is that as CEO and the primary financier for the company that if he died making an attempt going to orbit that it would put a whole bunch of people that he cares about into the unemployment lines.

      He also made a further comment that once this company and the other enterprises are a little better established (Solar City and Tesla Motors) that he might consider making a trip, but certainly not as the first person up in the spacecraft.

  • Why is it better for the US Government to pay a corporation to build spacecraft?

    People always give the line that corporations are more efficient, but I don't really see why. Not only are they likely to shell out big bucks to their execs, but they also have to get enough money selling products/services to the government to make a profit. NASA doesn't have to make a profit, so they're providing the service to the government at cost.

    Saying that private entities are cheaper for the government to use becau

    • For Boeing and Lockheed Martin they end up being part of the supply chain and because of that they have no incentive to build cheap and fly cheap, their goal is to create and sell high because someone else is going to pay for it and often deal with it. If SpaceX puts their own people in the air with their own hardware, they have the motivation to keep prices low and when it comes around to getting other people and things in orbit, sell high.

      Odds are if you are looking for the lowest bidder between Lockheed

    • by Gravatron (716477)
      Nasa doesn't build much. they have always had to use private companies to do the actual building. Due to the way those contracts work, the contractors have little motivation to do anything but maximize profit from that contract, where as a purely privately funded company has to answer to it's shareholders.

      Space X saved a lot of money not by cutting corners, but by vertical integration. They build as much as they can in house, rather then having to buy and ship stuff form dozens of makers all over th
    • Why is it better for the US Government to pay a corporation to build spacecraft?

      People always give the line that corporations are more efficient, but I don't really see why. Not only are they likely to shell out big bucks to their execs, but they also have to get enough money selling products/services to the government to make a profit. NASA doesn't have to make a profit, so they're providing the service to the government at cost.

      Saying that private entities are cheaper for the government to use because private entities need to make a profit seems backwards to me.

      How many private entities have the ability to either print money or seize money from others through force (taxes)?

      That's why the private sector is more efficient: even with profits, private entities still have to work within budgets. Governments don't earn money, governments take money, and if they have cost overruns, they can just take more. Where's the incentive to be efficient?

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      > Why is it better for the US Government to pay a corporation to build spacecraft?

      You seem to have a somewhat idealized view of how the US government operates.

      In the government's case, a rocket/spacecraft is designed to garner political support -- you won't get funding for the rocket unless it meets the demands of politically-powerful congressmen and creates as many jobs as possible in their congressional districts. For example, with the Shuttle and Shuttle-legacy vehicles, you have (perhaps most importa

  • by Tmack (593755)
    Capacity to launch and recover 6600+lbs, so what do they send up?

    Big wheel of Cheese [satnews.com]

    No word on what type yet.

    -tm

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