Tonight something historic happened. The folks at SpaceX managed to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket after a launch to put 11 satellites in orbit. For those of you not familiar with this jargon, that’s no easy feat… and one that will truly revolutionize access to space for future generations, making it more accessible.
But that got me thinking… if it is so critical to have a reusable rocket, why no-one tried before? (and no, Blue Origin’s success a few weeks ago doesn’t count, okay?). Well… SpaceX is the first commercial company to ever manage to dock a spacecraft in the ISS. All others, in the history of human beings, have been Government organizations such as Soyuz from Russia, NASA, or the Europeans with Arianne Space. So, you can imagine that there was not much incentive to try new things there… the industry was poisoned with a risk-adverse culture that prevented any major step forward. Until Musk. Yes, Elon is a risk taker. eBay, Tesla and SpaceX tells it all.
What Musk has accomplished is much more than launching rockets into space AND get one of them back to Earth, all in one piece while in control… He has managed to put together a bunch (actually several thousands) of crazy smart, dreamers, ambitious, why-not crowd, and give them the means and direction to make the impossible happen. That, to me, is the biggest feat of it all – and one that will bring a lot more benefits to humanity than ‘just’ land a rocket.
But you might argue that in all the other places such as NASA there’re also a lot of crazy smart, dreamers and ambitious men and woman willing to do the impossible too, right? Well, of course there are… but unfortunately they’re shielded from the decision-making process by a layer of people who’s wired to be risk-adverse, and do only incremental steps to avoid putting themselves on the line. This is no different in countless other organizations across the world, that’s why it’s so remarkable that Elon managed to change that top-down at SpaceX (and not to mention Tesla too!).
Again, kudos to the SpaceX team and Elon for making us dream of a better future.
(Photo credit: SpaceX)