Many skeptics did not believe that a private technology company would ever reach this important milestone. They believed that only the federal government could design, develop and launch a complicated project like human space flight.
However, Elon Musk believed that it was possible and set out to figure out how to do it. By working in partnership with NASA, SpaceX to the surprise of no one is laying the groundwork for space travel to the Moon, Mars and other points of interest for not just astronauts but also private citizens.
Not only did SpaceX figure out how to develop the first human space flight with American astronauts to launch in nearly 10 years, the company is doing it for a lower cost than was ever possible before. Since SpaceX is a private company with investors, the economics of their missions have to make both scientific and economic sense.
As we discussed 2 years ago, SpaceX figured out how to launch the most powerful rocket in the world & also have it return to land. The booster rocket is one of the most expensive parts of the mission. By figuring out how to make this component reusable, they are going to realize cost savings over the lifetime that this rocket is in service.
If you want to see some amazing engineering, check out this video of the booster rocket landing on a moving ship after it propels that Dragon into space.
For kids who are witnessing this monumental event, there are 3 great lessons that kids can gain from the SpaceX human space flight.
1. Always challenge assumptions
It has been said that the 5 most dangerous words in business are, "It's always been done this way." While there are often many valid reasons for a specific approach, process or methodology; the reality is that many times it was the best solution at the time for the given boundary conditions.
If the boundary conditions have changed in ways that are favorable for another approach to be utilized, it is best to explore that.
When the federal government was funding space exploration as part of the validation of our superpower status with other nations, there wasn't a big focus on controlling spending. The goal was to prove who was the best. As a result, previous space missions did not have a lot of cost oversight. Unfortunately, due to a lack of self sufficiency, this means that space travel as a line item could be ultimately cut if those in charge did not see a return on investment.
Over time as the United States proved their pre-eminent superpower status, space travel was no longer required as a metric to favorably compare ourselves to other powerful nations.
On the other hand, once new technology companies like SpaceX were launched, they could challenge the assumption that space travel could have an unlimited budget. As a result of returning the problem to first principles, they were able to develop innovative new technologies to control costs. One of the key innovations that SpaceX developed was reusable booster rockets.
As they continue along this path, there are bound to be additional innovations that are developed by SpaceX and others.
2. Let curiosity be your guide
There have been many people throughout history that have been curious about space. Most recently, we have seen technology entrepreneurs, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, wonder about what is beyond Earth's atmosphere especially for private citizens.
However, the key distinction between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk is that they started companies designed to explore their curiosity. Both of them have made tremendous gains in figuring out new innovations related to space travel.
If you have a curiosity around space travel, make sure that you are following what SpaceX & Blue Origin are up to.
And not everyone has to be interested in what you are interested in. In fact, one could argue that the more unique your interest, the less likely you are to have others share your passion.
However, in order to break out and really make an impact on the world, you have to be willing to do things that may be initially unpopular until they become obvious. One of the best ways to do this is to ask what problems are you curious about solving? What are the areas that you constantly want to learn more about? With curiosity as a guide, you open yourself up to a galaxy of possibilities.
3. Be long term focused
Many times people get excited about the flavor of the day. They want people to focus on what is popular now. These trendsetters and trend followers can take up an inordinate amount of time that may have been better spent with a longer term lens.
However, long term investments in areas like space exploration are not going to pay off immediately. In fact, this is an area so audacious and bold, that you have to be truly passionate about it in order to stick with it.
Here's where a counterintuitive lesson comes in. Since only those who are most passionate about figuring out the long term solution will jump in, you often not only have a higher probability of success. But, you also have an opportunity for your success to be enduring.
In business, these are often called moats. The reason for this is that as companies like SpaceX learn more about space travel, it gets relatively harder for new companies to simply jump in and compete with them. Not only is the financial investment higher but the cumulative learnings that have been gained over a period of several years can almost be impossible for a new upstart to overcome.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk. It has taken the company nearly 20 years to get to the milestone of human space flight. There are likely many times throughout the way where they could have given up or decided that the mission was too difficult.
Since they didn't we are going to witness history this week. This milestone will likely set them up for several decades of future success which is going to be awesome to see.