When it’s launched, SpaceX capsule will carry a Central Texas mosaic
When it’s launched, the SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule will carry not only two U.S. astronauts, but also a mosaic of photos of 2020 graduates from schools here and around the country, and it won’t be the first time SpaceX has taken a piece of Central Texas into space.
SpaceX invited graduates from around the country, including special invitations to those at local schools where students may have a parent working at the McGregor testing facility, the opportunity to submit their picture to be part of a mosaic printed and then flown aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley.
The launch was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, but was scrubbed because of the threat of severe weather.
It has been rescheduled for Saturday.
The spots filled up quickly but, McGregor senior Natalie Aviles secured her seat.
"I am going to space…kind of," Aviles said. "It's awesome now to look back to know that SpaceX has been supporting us from the time we were in kindergarten to now as seniors, they have never left our side."
Aviles says her senior year has been challenging like everyone's but it's nice to know she gets to be a part of something special. "My senior years has been one for the books but with the help of Space X and the community of McGregor they have made our senior year more spectacular than what we could have ever dreamt of," she said.
The trip which includes a nod to Central Texans isn't the first gesture of its kind.
On Aug.14, 2017, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched successfully just after 11:30 a.m. bearing a tribute to Rhett Hering, the 15-year-old son of McGregor’s mayor whose death in an ATV accident in 2015 sparked the creation of a community-wide service project called the “Rhett Revolution.”
A "Rhett Revolution" sticker was placed on the first stage booster of the Falcon 9 rocket at the McGregor testing facility.
Rhett's parents Lorna and Jimmy Hering, the mayor of McGregor, were on hand for that launch in Florida as was KWTX.
The Herings watched on from a private viewing area at NASA in Florida.
"It's truly amazing to watch this rocket go up. The fire, to feel it, to hear it," Jimmy said. "And then seven minutes later to watch it come back down."
Two minutes after the Falcon 9 launch, the first stage booster with the "Rhett Revolution" sticker on board, separated from the rocket and like clock-work, landed 8 minutes later at a pad 11 miles away.
"Now we're sitting here waiting with excitement to see at some point if a piece of that Rhett Revolution sticker made it back," Jimmy said minutes after liftoff.
The landing site of the booster was not open to the public or the media, but SpaceX invited KWTX to accompany Rhett's parents as they saw the booster just hours after it landed and when they finally got the answer to the question they had.
The sticker in their son's honor made it back home.
"Really I'm speechless I think," Jimmy said. "This culminates an incredible two days."
When the booster carrying Rhett's message of love reentered the earth's atmosphere, it came back faster than the speed of sound but still landed just four feet from its exact target.
It's an ending to a mission for the Herings that they say came as no surprise.
"That was to be expected," Jimmy said. "Everything was perfect from the very beginning. Putting Rhett's sticker on it and allowing us to be a part of it and to land it almost dead on bullseye. It was meant to be."
The sticker was returned and presented to Jimmy and Lorna as McGregor High school met in the school's cafeteria as part of KWTX's "Be Kind Be Brave" school tour in honor of Rhett on Nov. 14, 2017.