Dragon returns, Antares explodes, SpaceShipTwo crashes

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

The NASA-contracted Antares rocket, built by Orbital Sciences, was destroyed by a safety officer’s self-destruct command. Investigators are trying to determine what went wrong.

It has definitely been an intense week for space travel. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule successfully returned from its month-long mission to the International Space Station, or ISS, which is more than NASA can say for the unmanned Antares rocket that exploded days later on its way to the ISS. Then, in a tragic accident, Virgin Galactic’s space plane – the SpaceShipTwo – crashed during a test flight.

The Antares rocket explosion may be bad news for NASA, but it’s good news for Musk, since the faulty rocket was built by one of SpaceX’s competitors, Orbital Sciences. He even called Orbital Sciences’ rocket design a “joke” almost two years ago! Ouch.

See, private rocket companies are on the rise, as government funding for NASA dwindles. Businesses like SpaceX work closely with both NASA and commercial satellite producers to send critical objects into space.

Investigators are still trying to figure out what prompted a safety officer to initiate a self-destruct command for the Antares rocket. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but 5,000 pounds of supplies, school experiments, and computer gadgetry were lost in the accident. That’s one expensive fireworks show!

As for SpaceX’s Dragon, which safely splashed down from an ISS resupply mission days before the Antares went up in smoke, it brought back crucial research on space exploration. Musk, who’s trying to create a reusable rocket that’ll save millions of dollars, is also interested in sending humans to Mars. So, you can bet he was particularly excited by the Dragon’s cargo, which included research on helping humans survive deep space journeys.

As for Virgin Galactic’s “SpaceShipTwo”, the company has been developing passenger space travel for years. Although the proposed ticket prices are super expensive, at $250,000 a pop, the high-tech craft is aiming to be the first-of-its-kind commercial travel to 60 miles up high. Sadly, during a test flight with two passengers on Friday, an unknown malfunction caused the SpaceShipTwo to explode and crash after being released from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane. The accident claimed a life and injured one person. Hopefully, this doesn’t discourage Virgin Galactic and other companies from advancing human space travel.

Featured image courtesy of SpaceX. Image of Antares courtesy of Matthew Travis on YouTube.