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Space Industry Sees Highs and Lows with SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Launch and SpaceIL's Failed Beresheet Mission

SpaceX's Falcon Heavy on the launch pad ahead of its second mission. (April 2019) Photo: Brendan Byrne, WMFE
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy on the launch pad ahead of its second mission. (April 2019) Photo: Brendan Byrne, WMFE

This week held both monumental firsts and a near miss for the space industry and its followers.

History was made Thursday night as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launched from Cape Canaveral, marking the rocket’s first-ever commercial launch. Meanwhile, SpaceIL’s Beresheet failed its attempt to land on the moon after mission control lost contact with the spacecraft lander.

History docent and photographer Julia Bergeron, Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external relations for Space Florida, Emilee Speck with WKMG News 6 and 90.7’s space reporter Brendan Byrne join Intersection to discuss the highs and lows of the week in space exploration.

After a one day delay, Falcon Heavy took off at 6:35 p.m. before a crowd of spectators, including local space lovers and enthusiasts from around the world.

Speck says the extensive interest in Thursday’s launch came from both Falcon Heavy’s sheer force and the the fact that it was the rocket’s first mission with a paying customer.

“It’s powerful,” Speck says. “It’s 27 merlin engines, 5 million lbs of thrust — it’s a big rocket. Then that triple booster landing is kind of the cherry on top.”

Ketcham says while the launch is viewed as a business venture by investors like Elon Musk, the event is being celebrated by space enthusiasts for its ingenuity.

“It’s those resources that are provided by the commercial sector that drive the innovation and the spectacular imagery and get everyone excited to want to come watch the launch of a huge vehicle and the recovery of the boosters. It’s a bucket list thing for a heck of a lot of people, and those of us who live here I think recognize how lucky we are to be able to see that stuff.”

Also this week, engineers for SpaceIL’s failed Beresheet spacecraft remained optimistic even after losing contact, saying they got close to reaching their goal of landing on the moon.

“It was a really big deal for them to do what they did,” Byrne says. “Just to put it into perspective, this is a tiny lander working on a $100 million budget going places that less than a handful of people have actually been to. For them to just get into orbit around the moon was a huge deal doing it the way that they did it, and so landing is kind of an afterthought at that point.”

Bergeron says launches this upcoming summer are also expected to draw widespread interest.

“I think the interest is definitely going to build as the astronauts are getting ready for their commercial flights, I’m hoping by the end of this year,” Bergeron says.

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