If all goes well, on May 27 two American astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, will ride in a Tesla electric car to a Florida launchpad, hop out, and then climb into the nose of a Falcon 9 rocket built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. They’ll strap in before a bank of superslick touchscreens, as opposed to a Cold War-era clutter of buttons and knobs. The rocket will blast off at 4:33 p.m. EDT and dock with the International Space Station about 19 hours later. It will be the first privately built rocket and capsule ever to put humans into space, as well as the first time in almost a decade that an American spacecraft will ferry Americans into space from American soil.
In another era and under slightly different circumstances, this event would be the whole, glorious story. Immigrant rocket man ferries brave patriots into the heavens. Plop some ice cream on the apple pie, pass the Budweisers around, and let the livestreamed adrenaline loose on the imaginations of millions of kids.