If you're one of the 34.8 million Americans expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend, we at DOT wish you and your family a very safe trip.
If you're driving--as are 93 percent of holiday travelers--please buckle up, drive sober, and turn off your cell phone. And if you're flying, please arrive at the airport early and protect your child with an appropriate safety seat.
One traveler whose Memorial Day journey will be one for the history books is the SpaceX Dragon. Launched atop a Falcon 9 booster rocket, this intrepid voyager is on its way to becoming the first American-made spacecraft to dock at the International Space Station since NASA's space shuttle fleet was retired last year.
The successful launch of the SpaceX Dragon capsule earlier this week marks a new era for the U.S. commercial space transportation industry, and the Federal Aviation Administration was launch-side to oversee the safety of this dramatic milestone.
The FAA met its responsibility to license, inspect, and monitor the SpaceX launch through its Office of Commercial Space Transportation. The FAA has also licensed and is prepared to monitor the Dragon's re-entry into Earth's atmosphere and the capsule's landing in the Pacific Ocean.
Sometime today, the unmanned Dragon capsule is expected to dock at the space station and deliver critical supplies to the station's crew. The Dragon will then take on cargo to be redelivered back to Earth. The success of this mission will help establish the commercial space transportation industry's resupply capabilities, a role once provided by the Space Shuttle program.
Safety is the FAA’s core mission, and that’s still the case when it comes to Commercial Space Transportation. “We’re careful not to tip the scale and jeopardize safety; we want this industry to succeed, but maintaining safety along the way is paramount," said FAA aerospace engineer Pam Underwood.
And that has been DOT's objective across the transportation spectrum. We want people and cargo to get where they need to go as effectively as possible, but we won't compromise on safety.
Commercial space transportation certainly adds an exciting dimension to our safety mission, but--whether we're talking about hitting the road for a holiday weekend or resupplying a space station--the mission itself remains the same.