So, What time is the Space X launch tonight?

Who knows?

No idea to be honest.

I’m so confused. This morning I was on local radio (for a whole 5 minutes, yes check me out!) talking about the rescheduled launch of the first crewed Space X launch from the Kennedy Space Centre in the USA.

I of course looked up when it would actually be happening today. Some reputable news outlets said we can see it at 722pm UK time but others say 822pm.

After using an Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) {not to be confused with Eastern Standard Time} to British Standard Time (BST) {not to be confused with Greenwich Mean Team(GMT)} calculator online… I concluded that the bloody launch could be watched on TV in the UK at 822pm!!

and that is the time that I wrote down in my notes and I was prepared to say this time 822pm on the radio when asked….

& then the radio presenter, she said (to all those 10 listeners :)) that today’s launch was at 622pm … I didn’t correct her because I doubted myself in that moment, despite my extensive research of at least 5 articles… so yes now I am soooooo confused about when this launch is hopefully happening?

Good job I never got to my dream of being an astronaut it seems. Because this kind of thing is definitely something an astronaut should be able to do; to easily calculate between different time zones. Seems important huh? So why is everyone getting it so wrong..? and on the International Space Station(ISS) they use Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) …so yes, I got not chance of being an astronaut. Luckily for me I am already self named astrosadie ( a lot of astronauts also put ‘astro’ in front of their names, I started this fashion though; probably) .

To conclude, the launch *maybe* will happen some point this evening.

Anyway, timezone confusion aside I did learn quite a lot of cool facts about this ‘first crewed launch since 2011’ so I’ll write them here. This is so my extensive research notes, made by me in order to sound like an ‘expert’, do not go to waste ( I didn’t get to say most of this on air…for the 10 listeners of the local radio.)

So since 2011 NASA have been paying the Russian space agency aka Roscosmos to send their astronauts to the ISS. There is usually a crew of between 6-10 astronauts on the ISS at any one time and the split between the two agencies is about half, with the occasional smattering of astronauts from Japan and China, and the European Space Agency (ESA) who sent Tim Peake, the first British astronaut to go to the ISS (Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut to go into space, but she went to Mir space station; and she was also the first woman to go to Mir. Go Helen!).

Yay Britain is still in Europe when it comes to space agencies woooo!

So all the ‘fuss’ about this launch is because this is the first time America/NASA has sent humans to the ISS since 2011. And it’s the first time a commercial company i.e. not the government, a business that is out to make a profit has sent people to the ISS.

Now Space X (Elon Musk’s company) and Boeing both won contracts with NASA to ‘help’ them. So both these commercial companies are now at the stage where they have tested their rockets and crew capsules with cargo and they seem to work. This is cool; and NASA has successfully performed delegation of the highest order (I wish I was able to delegate this well lol, perhaps this is why I am neither a manager or an astronaut, but yes, as usual, I digress).

So yes, SpaceX is going first with their Dragon Crew capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

Now I am Welsh and my favourite number is 9. So when I read these names I was already ‘on board’ with this launch. I am not going to lie.

This is all pretty damn cool. And then when you watch the test videos of the Falcon 9 just casually flying back to a small ‘helipad’ floating in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida. I mean wow, this is really cool! It’s a reusable rocket that you can ‘remote control’ AND it doesn’t just get discarded in the ocean!

So yes, only 2 astronauts will fly on the Dragon today; only 2 are going because it’s less risky with 2 as opposed to 4? And of course this is the first time they are going to be able to test it out with an actual human crew.

This isn’t the first time the Dragon has been crewed though actually…it has previously had mannequins in it. One of these mannequins was called Ripley after Ellen Ripley of the Alien films and the other was called Starman, after the David Bowie song. Say what you like about Elon Musk but he is quite good at naming things (in my opinion)!

If today all goes well the Dragon has the capacity to take up to 7 passengers. So I assume that in the future some of these passengers may indeed not be astronauts who have trained for literally their whole lives but very rich people who can afford to buy a ticket to space. Eventually NASA plans to send astronauts (I assume the trained ones, not random rich people) to the Moon again. This will happen in 2024 (one of these people will *hopefully* be a woman and then she will be the first woman on the Moon! That’s cool.) and then they will go to Mars by the mid 2030s.

Now I got my Dad to quiz me yesterday on what questions I might get asked on the radio…his first one was ‘how long will it take them to get to the space station?’ thankfully I was able to impress and shock him with my ‘space expert’ knowledge…

So I say ‘It only takes 10 mins for them to get into orbit!’

My Dad is like ‘WHAT?NO? surely not? TEN MINUTES!’

so I’m like ‘yes, it is 330km up to it but they are going really fast Dad, they are literally sat on a rocket going at 28,324 kmph (or 17,600mph)’.

{I didn’t know that actual speed value at the time but I knew it was bloody fast, because I am an expert of course.}

Now cos I am a geek as well as a ‘space expert’ I had to do the maths on this one to check this 10minutes value I found online was correct.

So speed = distance divided by time and therefore the time to get there is the distance divided by the speed, so time = 330/28,324 =0.012 of an hour = 500 seconds = 8.3333333333 minutes (so ok about 10 minutes!)… {those 8 years of studying Astrophysics have not been in vain! I rejoice}.

So then my Dad is like ‘that means they will be in the space station with the other astronauts straight away’…

and I am like ‘No, it will actually take like 19 hours or something before they dock and get into the ISS!’

and he is like ‘What? that’s like when women try to park!’…

at this point, I of course gave my Dad a very annoyed look…

so knowing that it isn’t a good idea to mess with your daughter who has the book ‘Difficult Women: 11 feminist fights’ on her lap … he of course quickly back tracks from his sexist remark.

He goes ‘I know, you can twist it around, say on the radio, “typical man, he can get there quick but it takes him ages to park…!”

Anyway I didn’t get an opportunity to comment live on the radio about the time it will take the male astronauts to ‘park’ the ISS in orbit (which is why I am writing it here)…

but an additional interesting fact about all this docking business is that even after the Dragon attaches itself to the space station it will be another 2 hours before the crew that are there open the actual air lock doors and let the 2 NASA astronauts in.

That does seem kind of mean; but I am sure there is a very valid reason for it, like humans needing oxygen or some other small issue haha.

So yeah, if you have seen photos of their new suits you probably,like me, went ‘oooh, they are snazzy’. And theres a good reason for that, they were actually designed by the Hollywood costume designer who worked on Captain America (can’t comment; haven’t seen any of these films) and the Batman V Superman film (omg this movie was terrible, I honestly think I could have written a better plot; even with all my going off on tangents! But Ben Affleck was good in it, Henry Cavill was ok.)…

but yes these new, snazzy suits which make the astronauts look a lot less ‘orange is the new black’ are NOT suitable for spacewalks. They will only be used while riding in the Dragon capsule. The Boeing team have their own space suits too for their crews. I haven’t done much research on these so I don’t know if they have been designed by someone who works in movies but I can tell you they are a nice shade of blue.

The SpaceX suits are named the ‘Starman’ suits by the way, and like I explained earlier this is because that was the name of the Bowie inspired mannequin who I assume was the first wearer in actual Space.

Also, fun fact the helmets of the Starman suits were 3D printed… which means if the file is online (it should be cos Elon doesn’t really need the money) and you have a 3D printer you could print your very own helmet for all your space faring/covid avoiding needs!

So yes, assuming the Dragon crew do launch today at 622pm/722pm/822pm UK time they will be visible from the South of England with the NAKED eye (maybe!)

As they chase down the ISS for those 19 or so hours they will be orbiting the Earth … now the Dragon capsule is much much smaller than the ISS itself so it will be very very faint. And when it first passes over in view from South England it will be 9ish so still too light to see, but at 10.15pm (pretty sure this time is right as it’s from Heavensabove ) you MIGHT be able to see it with your EYES.

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