I am a child of the 60s. That means that I am a child of the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, SkyLab, the Space Shuttle programs and the ISS. I remember watching with white knuckles along with my parents and friends as brave men and women strapped themselves to rocket boosters and voluntarily flew to the last great frontier. So, it is with great pride and not a small amount of “gee whiz” that I watched Dragon return safely to Mother Earth.
From Alan Shepard, who I had the honor of meeting once at a book signing (Moon Shot if you’re interested), to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, to Sally Ride, and others who are less well known, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are just the last of a long line of true heroes who willingly go into a very hostile environment with no guarantee of return. As such, they also stand on the broad shoulders of those who went and did not return on the Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia missions, all of which remind us that, even though they make it look easy, flying to space is not like riding over to the Home Depot.
Even so, I marveled at photos comparing the cockpits of the Apollo, Shuttle and Dragon spacecraft. It occurs to me that in our modern age of high-speed computers and processors that the early astronauts went into space in vehicles with less computer technology that exists in my watch or the solar powered calculator that sits on my desk. Flight plans, orbital trajectories and re-entry configurations were calculated using slide rules, one of which I still own but have long forgotten how to use. If you have not observed the return of the Falcon rocket boosters return to Cape Canaveral or land on a drone vehicle at sea, you need to look it up. It is an amazing thing. Then I see that the Dragon spacecraft landed precisely using GPS technology accompanied by a number of private watercraft which were nearby to observe the proceedings.
It probably was not a good idea to announce the landing area just off Pensacola in advance of the event.
At a time in our country, racked by pandemic and threatened by social upheaval, all Americans can look to Colonel Bob Behnken and Colonel Doug Hurley, both veterans of the space shuttle program, and all of those who made it possible for them to return to space and the International Space Station from American soil, and take pride in the vision, technological advances and the ability for Americans to get the job done…again.