SpaceX’s latest mission “Inspiration 4” had an amazingly successful launch on Sept. 15th, 2021. Sending history’s first all non-governmental crew into orbit. It was the ultimate in corporate flying and was dedicated to benefit Saint Jude Hospital- a beyond worthy cause. As a former corporate pilot, this one warmed my heart. As a spaceflight historian I was keen to see some of the historic landmarks involved. The first pure non-government crew, the first crew to fly higher into space than any mission since Apollo 17, the youngest person, age 29, to fly in space who was also the first person in space with a medical prosthetic.
I watched the launch itself on SpaceflightNow and took in the more than four hours worth of coverage. I have to say that SpaceX has taken launch coverage of human spaceflight to a level that has not been seen in a half century. In fact, it took us space buffs into points of view that we never dreamed of in the olden days. Their HD cameras and remote drone views following the crew caravan around KSC are amazing. Plus, the videos of the personal stories of the crew members, two of whom are alumni of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University from which I proudly wear a class ring, were so well done they should be given an award.
About the only draw-back to the launch coverage was the constant noise and clatter in the background as the hosts were apparently seated, as always, just outside the company cafeteria in Hawthorne. Additionally, I guess SpaceX management likes the cheerleading crowd boisterously celebrating every milestone in the event. Yet that was tiresome and unprofessional nearly a decade ago. We get it… your employees are excited and happy, but at times their shouting on cue drowns out the engineering calls from launch control. This is spaceflight- not a college pep rally.
Also, the hosts really need to brush up on their spaceflight history. During the entire length of the crew insertion process, one of the hosts repeatedly stated that the crew would be making a final phone call from the phone at the level of the crew access arm, “…which has been a tradition since the Apollo days…” NO! The Apollo crews were unable to use a telephone through their bubble helmets. For crying out loud- just look at the photos from those missions. The crews were sealed into their suits and oxygenated long before arriving at the LUT. Taking off the helmets to make a phone call would have negated that entire process. It’s one thing to make a slip of history while doing a live broadcast, it’s another to keep repeating the bad history over and over. No astronaut that flew aboard an Apollo command module ever made a phone call from the LUT or anywhere else once their helmet was secured.
Of course, what do I know… I only wrote three books on the subject.