SpaceX conquering Space
Oscar-winning director couple Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s SpaceX foray orbits the ‘Demo-2’ flight, launched in May 2020, which for the first time carried two astronauts aboard a commercial rocket to the Space Station International.
Thanks to this Experiment, SpaceX, the project of billionaire Elon Musk, now benefits from contracts with NASA to supply the orbital station and lead crews there. Since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011, the United States had to rely on Russian rockets to send its own astronauts to the skies.
The portrait painted by Vasarhelyi and Chin — filmmakers fascinated by characters pushing the boundaries of the possible, as evidenced by their documentary Free Solo about professional free-solo climber Alex Honnold — is decidedly positive. Obviously, the failures of this mad enterprise are not concealed, but rather serve to highlight the tenacity of Musk and company.
The history of SpaceX, founded in 2002, is indeed littered with explosions. Its approach, more cowboy than that of NASA, is based on trial and error. Rather than calculating everything on paper, we launch a (manned) rocket, watch it deflagrate, and then adjust. This strategy allowed him to develop a reusable rocket capable of landing on Earth.
All the players in the field have not always believed that the private sector could substitute their machines for the NASA space shuttles. In 2010, before the American Congress, Neil Armstrong said he expected “adverse consequences”. Ex-astronaut Eugène Cernan had spoken of a “plan to go nowhere”.
In the control room, the eccentric entrepreneur is at all crucial times. Black jacket, white shirt unbuttoned at the collar, headphones on his head: he is reminiscent of a contemporary incarnation of the famous Gene Kranz, the flight director of the Gemini and Apollo programs. If space exploration is a spectacle, Musk knows how to comment and shine.
Musk nonetheless takes a fitting place in Return to Space, which gives astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley and their families plenty of time. The big boss of SpaceX is however the one who most clearly justifies his desire for space: he wants to see humanity settle on other planets.
“A glimmer of consciousness is shining on Earth, but for a short time. It could easily be extinguished by a meteorite, global warming, or even World War III. So, we have to preserve that glimmer of consciousness by becoming a multiplanetary species,” her voiceover says as images of the blue planet roll by.
According to Mr. Boudreault, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin) and Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic) want to invest the world of space to make money with resources or tourism, but not only: they are also dreamers. “These people came from the new economy, were strongly committed to an entrepreneurial vision, and