Both SpaceX founder Elon Musk and president Gwynne Shotwell have at times chided testing efforts in Texas for not pushing the envelope far enough and creating a smoking hole in the ground.
Tonight they got their wish.
According to multiple reports as well as tweet from Elon Musk, a Falcon F9R test at McGregor went badly awry today, as the vehicle “exploded” in mid-air. Fortunately there were no injuries and no property damage other than the vehicle itself and some minor grass fires.
According to SpaceX spokeperson John Taylor: “During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.” He went on to add “Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.”
Finally, “With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program.” “Today’s test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test.”
This marks the first reported test mishap involving the Falcon F9R, and although critics are sure to pounce, and Congressional staffers in Alabama and Colorado are no doubt already working on the next urgent letter to NASA and the Air Force, it is worth recalling that this was test of a cutting edge technology and procedures which literally no-one else in the world is undertaking except SpaceX and Blue Origin.
Along those lines, it is worth recalling Robert Browning’s timeless exhortation to attempt the impossible :
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp”
Per ardua ad astra.