As the latest SpaceX mission launched Wednesday night, Ken Ruffin was glued to his TV screen, joining others with bated breath watching this leap into a new era of space travel.
As president of the National Space Society of North Texas, seeing the first all-civilian crew successfully launch into orbit was a moment he’d been waiting for his whole life.
Ask Ruffin about his love of space and he’ll describe it as a need, somewhere between oxygen and water.
“My dream as a little kid was when I grow up, I will start my own space company and build rockets and they'll be bigger and better than anything NASA has ever done,” Ruffin said.
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He went to school for aerospace engineering. But when the Challenger explosion shook the industry, he turned his focus instead to the environment here on Earth.
Now, he roots for those who do what he once dreamt of.
"Specifically, because of SpaceX, science fiction is already becoming science fact,” said Ruffin.
He says the launch of the Inspiration4, carrying a billionaire, a childhood cancer survivor, a science professor, and an engineer, provides hope that space tourism could happen in his lifetime.
More importantly, it could provide opportunities to change how energy is produced.
“You’ll have 24-hour solar-powered clean energy, no air pollution, no water pollution, no solid waste, no hazardous waste, no climate change, no greenhouse gases, no radioactivity, you name it,” he said.
He believes it also provides hope.
“Everyone’s heard the expression, never put all of your eggs in one basket. Well, humanity is in one basket. We call it the Earth,” said Ruffin. “If humanity is in more than one location, if something catastrophic were to happen, for example to Earth, then all of humanity wouldn’t be wiped out.”
That’s why he audibly cheered as the Inspiration4 reached space, taking a large step towards multi-planetary life. Though he’s content to remain on this.
"As excited as I am about it, I'll be the on-the-ground spokesperson,” said Ruffin.