Following up on this morning's successful Falcon-9/Dragon launch, I've learned that ashes of the late actor James Doohan, who of course played the irascible Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott on the original Star Trek and who died in 2005, were along for the ride. Remains of 300 people, including Doohan and Mercury-era astronaut Gordon Cooper, were carried aloft on the Falcon rocket's second stage; while this payload was not technically part of the Dragon capsule, I like to think Starfleet's Miracle Worker at least imparted a little good luck to the fledgling spacecraft.
Also, if you don't quite understand what the fuss over this one little launch is all about, allow me to direct your attention to a nice piece by space reporter MIles O'Brien,* who spells it out the significance of today's events quite handily:
Supporters of [NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program] say it is tantamount to subsidizing nascent airlines in the barnstorming days by giving them contracts to fly the mail. The government didn't tell Henry Ford how to build his Tri-Motor, but the mail those planes carried was an effective taxpayer tool to encourage a whole new industry - eventually making it possible for millions of people to board planes with as much fanfare as if they were buses - and then moan if they are five minutes late pushing back from the gate.
It would be nice if space travel could be that routine some day. And the Shuttle, a vehicle that I love and miss, was never going to get us there.
That's pretty much my attitude as well. As hard as I'm grieving for my shuttles and wish they could still be flying in some capacity, they hard reality is that they didn't bring us the future we imagined. SpaceX and the Dragon might not either, but it's a step in the right direction.
* I always smile when I run across an article by Miles O'Brien. He's an excellent reporter who has a real flair for boiling technical information down to where laypeople can understand it, and he genuinely seems to love the aviation and space-related subjects he specializes in. He also happens to share his name with a fictional character from the Star Trek universe, Chief Miles O'Brien, played by Colm Meaney, who was a Scotty-type engineer who could fix anything on both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. It's not quite irony... but it is an amusing coincidence.