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St. Louis space enthusiasts hail SpaceX Falcon Heavy a game changer

ST. LOUIS - A rocket launch in Florida has some St. Louis space enthusiasts thrilled over the potential for future space exploration.  The launch of Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center is considered a major milestone for several reasons.

The launch was funded solely by SpaceX, a private venture launched by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.  Competition for space exploration is expected to drive down costs.

The other big achievement was the successful return of 2 of 3 rocket boosters to earth.  The ability to re-use rocket boosters is a big money saver.

The Falcon Heavy is also considered the most powerful rocket in the world and can carry a payload of nearly 150,000 pounds.

“I think what is really important about what’s happening today is that it’s furthering the American space program,” said Anna Green, manager of the St. Louis Science Center’s James S. McDonnell Planetarium.  “I think that all humans have this innate need and desire to learn more about ourselves, more about the world we live in, more about the universe we live in and with launch vehicles like the Falcon Heavy we’re going to be able to continue to do that.”

The St. Louis Science Center  is also preparing for a special space exhibit that will bring the Apollo 11 command module Columbia and 20 one-of-a-kind artifacts from the historic mission to the center. The exhibit opens April 14th.

Mack Bradley is a well-known St. Louis public relations specialist.  He is also a space exploration enthusiast.

“By all accounts, this looks like a picture-perfect test flight.  That’s tough to do in space flight,” he said.

Bradley referred to an analogy Musk has used to explain why the ability to re-use rocket boosters is such a big deal.

“If you fly from Los Angeles to New York and they threw the airplane away at the end of the trip your ticket would cost a lot more,” said Bradley.  “That’s why spaceflight is so expensive.  You throw the airplane away after every flight.”

The ability to re-use rocket boosters could allow rockets to take off on a routine basis.

“That makes it a lot cheaper, completely changes the economics of it which has business implications and it also has big implications for exploration,” said Bradley.

The cost of the Falcon Heavy launch was $90 million.