Thank You Crew Dragon. You Saved 2020

I don't write personal posts on Astronomical Returns often, but the historic launch of Crew Dragon demands an exception

After the countdown reached 0 and the ecstatic cheers of my SpaceX colleagues abated as Dragon settled into orbit, I found myself back in the silence of my room, trying to come up with an appropriate way to express how much this mission means to me. Though we're not even halfway through 2020, it's no secret this has been a tumultuous year for the world, with everything from a deadly pandemic to ongoing protests and riots at home and abroad. But 2020 has been a year of enormous change and personal development for me as well, having suddenly abandoned my life in New York and moved across the country for SpaceX, so I feel a little reflection is in order 

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas on Wall Street anymore"

Jumping for joy after a successful launch! A dream that would not be possible without my extended family in LA to look out for me

In trying to justify a renewed commitment to human spaceflight in the midst of such social unrest, I find a striking parallel between the current upheaval and what our nation endured 52 years ago. The year 1968 was one of the worst in American history: the Cold War was at its apex, thousands of Americans were dying each month in Vietnam, and widespread riots following the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy threatened to burn American cities to the ground. The world appeared to be on a one-way trip to hell, and most Americans were in desperate need for a win. Against this backdrop, a Saturn V lifted off from Cape Canaveral, carrying the Apollo 8 crew on the first mission to orbit the moon, a daring and monumental achievement for NASA that united the world. On Christmas Eve, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and Bill Anders captured the serenity of our fragile planet with the immortal Earthrise photo, and they read from the book of Genesis to a beleaguered world below. Upon returning, Commander Borman received a telegram from a stranger that summed up the historical significance of the mission perfectly: "Thank you Apollo 8. You saved 1968." 

A year unlike any other in American history. I can only imagine living through it

I always have people asking me, "Why invest so much in space when we have so many problems here on Earth?" But particularly now with the coronavirus-induced recession wreaking havoc on the economy, I'm facing an even more pressing need to provide a satisfactory response. People are quick to point out the value of SpaceX's Commercial Crew Development contract ($2.6 billion) and cry foul - "Why in God's name are we spending billions of dollars to launch people in the middle of a pandemic?! What lunacy!!" Sure, I have plenty of logical rebuttals to refute that argument: 1) the contract was awarded in 2014 and spread out over many years, long before COVID-19. 2) Commercial US launch providers cost a fraction of what we're currently paying Russia to launch our astronauts, so we're actually saving tons of taxpayer dollars. 3) Thousands of jobs depend on a robust space program (including mine!) 4) NASA's budget is a tiny fraction of the government budget anyway...

Woah... 2020 looks awfully reminiscent of 1968

But while these are true facts, the more I ponder it, the more I realize that facts alone provide an inadequate defense of our space program. Space exploration is both humanity's most noble endeavor and my own life's passion, and this passion is justified not by logic or economics, but by the emotion it invokes in a society that commits to it, a deep-rooted belief that our efforts today will lead to greatness tomorrow. And just as no one explains their emotional attachment to their spouses, their families, or their communities through pure reason alone, so too do I place my faith in our celestial manifest destiny for infinitely more than just the return on investment it promises to deliver

A little something positive we can all get behind :)

We often hear people say, "I hate watching the news because everything is always so depressing." But for one idyllic Saturday, as a Falcon 9 punched through the atmosphere, I watched a divided world pause their bickering, even just for a moment, as millions of everyday people pulled up live YouTube streams and counted down in unison to cheer on two brave souls ascending a column of fire to be our envoys to the stars. I saw mainstream media outlets, derided in recent years as crooked peddlers of fake news and hysteria, unanimous in their praise of an astonishing feat of human ingenuity, undertaken for the benefit of all mankind. How rare it is to have an occasion to still be unapologetically proud of our country and its people, to exemplify the highest ideals of American patriotism in a way completely devoid of racism and xenophobia. And what a humble honor it is to be a part of the human race, still capable of dreaming big and aiming high

An outpouring of support from the online community - I'm still amazed how much the American public cared about this launch!

Our world faces real problems, problems that cannot be solved overnight with the push of a button, the stroke of a pen, or the ignition of a rocket engine. But attention to these issues need not preclude our aspirations for a future among the stars. To borrow an excerpt from Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins' speech to Congress following his historic flight:

"We cannot launch our planetary probes from a springboard of poverty, discrimination, or unrest; but neither can we wait until each and every terrestrial problem has been solved. Such logic two hundred years ago would have prevented expansion westward past the Appalachian Mountains, for assuredly, the Eastern seaboard was beset by problems of great urgency then, as it is today.

Man has always gone where he has been able to go. It's that simple. He will continue pushing back his frontier, no matter how far it may carry him from his homeland." 

And as for me, although all I have to offer SpaceX and NASA are my Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides, it will always be my little piece of the heavens. So thank you Crew Dragon. You saved 2020.



  1. Thank you for the tribute to the launch! And CONGRATS on having a job there, what a great place to work!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words! It's a dream come true working here :)