While the world shelters in place and planes are grounded, the extra-terrestrial business of space travel continues. Not least because we have a roster of astronauts awaiting their own deliveries in the splendid isolation of the International Space Station. An article in this week’s New Scientist confirms that this month, Elon Musk’s private Space X company will join forces with NASA to launch a manned mission to the ISS. The Crew Dragon spacecraft will carry two American astronauts to the space station where they’ll test its potential to act as a lifeboat to ISS astronauts. It’s a pretty big deal. Since this is the first time Space X has transported astronauts, those two men, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, face the inherent risks of flying a new spacecraft. On top of that, the NASA-Space X team have to ensure a Covid-free launch with social distancing back at Mission Control. No pressure then!
As ever, Space X’s design has more than a nod to science-fiction. The shiny white spacesuits with black visors remind me of Star Wars Stormtroopers, which probably wasn’t what they were going for. But they certainly are sleek. And this manned mission is one step in an ambitious plan to put their Starship lander on the Moon’s surface by 2024. NASA’s Artemis programme will also feature the first woman on the Moon. So it’s rather pleasing that Musk’s Starship looks uncannily like the rocket from the 1929 sci-fi movie, Frau Im Mond, that helped to launch the career of Saturn V rocket designer, Wernher von Braun. Who knows what a post-Covid Depression will do to NASA’s budget or timeline going forward? But the private companies involved in this new Space Rush look set to maintain the momentum.
Here at Space Cat Press, we will be watching Crew Dragon’s historic launch with growing excitement. We can’t help feeling for those hard-pressed rocketeers and Mission Controllers as we move towards our own May launch. The Covid crisis has hit indie publishing hard. But we are hoping that like a nifty Firefly craft, we are small enough to duck and dive our way through the storm. Facing up to the ‘new normal’ of social distancing, we are embracing the challenge of moving our operation on-line. Our Ship’s Engineer, Darragh, has been hammering away to get our latest rocket launch ready. First up on the pad is an e-book version of our debut title, Desert Moonfire, followed by an anthology of new writing on the theme of Race to the Stars. Appropriately enough, Desert Moonfire: The Men Who Raced to Space, recounts the feats of rocketeers in the ‘era when humans became a space-faring species’.
So today we start a 21 Day Countdown to our first-ever SCP virtual book launch. Hot on the heels of those Crew Dragon astronauts, we will launch our Desert Moonfire title as an E-Book on Friday 29th May at 5pm GMT. How this goes down really depends on you, our Space Cat readers & followers, as much as it does on the fickle gods of IT. During our three weeks of countdown, we’ll feature podcasts, readings, competitions, a revamped Space Cat shop and a Live Launch. We hope you’ll tune in and add your voices to the Comms. relay. You can find us on Twitter (5pm most days) and Facebook, as well as here at Mission Control. Join us for the adventure and a Launch Day slice of virtual cake!