Allow me to explain what I mean by this title: a few years ago, I was a NASA intern. Part of my internship involved visiting private and public aerospace factories, which included Space X. As you might have heard, Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket exploded two minutes after launch this weekend. No astronauts were onboard (I’m pretty sure Space X has not had any manned missions to date), but most people saw it as a pretty sobering blow to the private industry’s shining star. And in 2012, as soon as I stepped foot in to Space X’s lobby, I saw this coming.
The following is excerpted from my Michelle-In-Space blog, which was a Livejournal I kept documenting that summer….
Finally, it was the long haul to Space X. Traffic didn’t get us too badly, but it still took nearly two hours to get across town to Hawthorne, where Space X and Boeing Satellite Systems were located. It is a surprisingly mundane part of town. Our tour of Space X got some mixed results, with people either loving it or hating it. I think I can’t talk about specifics, but I can give you a general gist of the place. Most of my peers will scoff at me for my blasphemy, but I honestly hated it. There was a disgusting level of unprofessionalism displayed (I lost count of the amount of F-bombs dropped by our orientation presenter and our tour guides – I’m not a prude, but keep it out of the workplace), a lack of anyone there over age 30 (aka, lack of any experienced wisdom and mentoring), and the sheer negligence that was being displayed with flight hardware. I mean, absolute negligence. I had more than a few raised eyebrows watching people work carelessly on stuff that is supposed to fly into space.
I love that the space industry has gone private, and I can certainly understand why someone would want to avoid the government-style red tape that comes with working at NASA proper. But this is the one company I’ve seen this summer which openly admits to skirting the edge of safety to save a buck, and then puffs out their chests in arrogance because of it. It actually baffles me how anyone could ignore that, especially since no one who fell in love with Space X has actually explained to me why they do – they’ve just looked at me like I’m psychotic. Personally, I am heavily dissapointed, and even a bit heartbroken by what I saw there. I was expecting amazement and a glimpse of the future, and instead I walked out with dread. Of course, I am happy we went, because it was very eye-opening and informative to see – I merely think the Dragon may as well be named the Icarus.
As a writer, I was immediately struck with the urge to “sound the alarm” on this inevitable tragedy though fiction. In 2013, I charted out a script outline for an indie film called Goliath, which tracked industrial espionage and quality negligence between a Boeing-like company and a Space X-like company. I eventually reduced this into a short story called “Goliath,” which was a 3000 word mock interview between a reporter named Sofia Morgan and the reckless Elon Musk-lite CEO of Goliath Aerospace. In the interview, the CEO takes Morgan on a tour through the facility and it strongly mirrors what I myself saw at Space X, heard from the tour guides, etc. At the end of the article, Morgan recounts the devastating explosion that occurred two weeks later on Goliath’s launchpad, and how all the signs of imminent failure were foreshadowed – but their hubris was too high to see it.
I submitted it to one anthology last summer, it was rejected, and I shelved it. I was hoping to revamp it this summer – next month, even. In fact, Sunday morning, I even wrote it on my to-do list. Then I heard the news.
I’m not sure if it’s a story that needs to be put out there anymore. I think I missed my shot. That’s not to say it can’t be enjoyed anymore, but now I think it’ll come off as reaction rather than foresight. Predicting trends is always more impressive than following them.
The moral of the story? If you see something coming that no one else does, write a story about it! And get it published! Your window will come and you’ll be ready. But if you write it when the event has passed, you may have missed the boat.