With a little bit of luck, SpaceX just might make history today.
At 11:10PM (GMT), SpaceX will launch NOAA's DSCOVR, a delayed NASA/NOAA project that will observe both the Earth and the Sun at a million miles distance. After SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches from Cape Canaveral and delivers its payload beyond Earth's atmosphere, the private space company will attempt (once again) to land the first stage of the rocket onto a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, the first time it has successfully done so during a mission. Basically, SpaceX wants to avoid this explosive nightmare:
NBC News reports that the chances of permissible weather for launch hovers around 90 per cent, but Elon Musk doesn't have similar odds for a successful landing. He says there is a 50 per cent chance that we're all in for a disastrous repeat. SpaceX equipped this rocket with more hydraulic fluid, which was the main problem the last time, but the first stage of the rocket has to go through carefully choreographed aerial manoeuvres on a flight path that Musk says is even more tricky than the last one.
NASA and SpaceX are live streaming the launch and you can watch it right here, right now:
The actual satellite aboard the Falcon 9 rocket is the fabled "GoreSat," dreamed up by Al Gore in 1998 as an instrument to take photographs of Earth at extreme distances. Republicans dismissed the plan as a waste of money, and when President Bush took office in 2001, the project was completely shelved. According to The New York Times, NASA and NOAA were in need of a satellite to replace the Advanced Composition Explorer, which has recorded solar storm data since 1997. Instead of building a completely new satellite, NASA retrofitted the DSCOVR craft they had in storage with a new array of equipment while still maintaining the satellite's original photographic mission.
Hopefully Gore and Musk's dreams are both successful, but either way, it's still a lovely day for a rocket launch.