Versions of Space

I no longer stay up late or get up early to watch a Falcon 9 launch, not even of crew, although if launches are going to happen during more normal hours I generally make time. I do go to the extra effort for Falcon Heavy launches, and will be doing so for Starship launches of course. Other rockets I’m not so interested in, although if there’s anything especially exciting about them, I try to make time. For example, I simply couldn’t be bothered to stay up late enough to watch the recent SLS launch. I did set an alarm and it woke me up, but I was so sleepy, and that particular rocket such a boondoggle, I preferred to just go back to sleep. I felt kind of guilty, as if it had failed spectacularly I would have been very disappointed not to have watched it live. I don’t want it to blow up (I want it cancelled!), but if it did blow up I would at least enjoy some live-action Schadenfreude.

Anyway, my non-watching of Falcon 9 launches isn’t a lack of interest, it is rather a lack of angst. Earlier, if a Falcon 9 failed, it would’ve been a big deal, and I would’ve wanted to’ve “been there” when it happened. Landings were still a novelty (in fact, when I do watch a Falcon 9 these days, I’m really in it for the landing, unless the payload is special). Now, even if there is a failure, the rocket is a workhorse with a long track record, and any accident, while critical, won’t mean the end of the idea, although the fleet would probably be grounded for a while.

If I remember correctly, I have defined Space 2.0 to mean that we are starting to employ at least partially reusable launchers. Society is now in transition to Space 2.0, with everybody trying to do their own version of Falcon 9. Higher version numbers should come with full reuse, so perhaps I should declare Starship, when and if it succeeds, as the first iteration of Space 2.1, although that rocket feels so momentous I wonder if it should have a much higher fractional version, say 2.5, or even go up to 3.0. I have a vague memories of defining 2.x numbers differently in various blog posts or asocial media snippets, but am not motivated to track this down – the whole Space 2.x idea is an evolving concept, not an attempt to impose my opinions or achieve scientific levels of self-consistency.

Additional advances such as routine lightsail and/or nuclear thermal propulsion, would have higher fractional values if not bumping up a whole version number. As with my memories of software versions, I feel like reserving Space 3.x for more “complete” implementations of space transportation. Back in the olden days for example, Windows 3.11 was a sort of culmination of The Great Satan’s initial stab at GUI. PageMaker 3.0 was kind of the first version of that application that really felt “complete”. I have distinct, if possibly false, memories of other software “finally arriving” with version 3. With 1.0 you simply get your crap, any crap, out there before the competition, to start establishing market dominance. With 2.0 you back and fill with bug fixes and some of the features you had to cut to ship 1.0. With 3.0 you finish adding those cut features and a few that become obvious from customer use and competition. I do think my metaphor kind of breaks, because PageMaker really made some great leaps by the time it had reached 5.0, and Internet Explorer 5.0, for what it was when it came out, and compared to the competition, was possibly the high point for that app, although again IE 3.0 was really the first version that was relatively usable.

One of my fantasies is to live to be 106 (while retaining my faculties), to see what is happening 100 years after Apollo 11. Space 4.0 or higher by then, I hope.