Christmas turkey, fruitcake rocketing toward space station

Christmas turkey is rocketing toward the International Space Station, along with cranberry sauce, candied yams and the obligatory fruitcake.

SpaceX launched the holiday shipment Wednesday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket blasted into a clear, chilly sky; the first-stage booster was aiming for a touchdown back at the launch site, once its job was done. 

SpaceX’s launch looked like mission accomplished, until part of the Falcon 9 rocket ended up in the water instead of back on land. It was the part where the rocket’s booster engine is maneuvered back from lift off and landed vertically on a pad back on land for future use. This practice has only recently been brought into SpaceX’s rocket launches and the company has completed the landings several times without issue.

That changed Wednesday though.  The booster could be seen streaking back into the skies above Cape Canaveral after just a few minutes, but not in the area on-lookers and space experts in the area are used to seeing it reappear.

"I was a little bit thinking, yeah this is not normal,” said Dr. Ken Kremer of Space Up Close. "It was wobbling around and then we knew for sure it was in the wrong spot; had to reposition the cameras."

Video Tweeted out by SpaceX founder Elon Musk showed that to be the case. The booster wasn’t over its landing pad, but instead spinning toward the waters of the cape below. The booster eventually hit the water and fell onto its side.

Musk Tweeted: “Grid fin hydraulic pump stalled, so Falcon landed just out to sea. Appears to be undamaged & is transmitting data. Recovery ship dispatched.”

The Brevard County Emergency Operations Center quickly assessed the situation and said via social media that the unscheduled water landing did not pose a hazard.

"This was like a successful failure,” said Dr. Kremer.

Kremer said obviously the booster did not stick its usual landing, but he said the apparent abort of the landing into the water was a success; something he said SpaceX hasn’t had to do yet.

"That's a good thing because, ya know, it didn't hurt anybody. They ditched it out in the ocean, this is why we have an exclusion zone,” said Kremer.

He said also, the actual launch of Dragon was a success, and really, he said that’s the point of these launches: getting the space craft to space.

The Dragon capsule should reach the orbiting lab Saturday.   Besides all the fixings for Christmas dinner, the delivery includes 40 mice and 36,000 worms for aging and muscle studies. Scientists expect a tenfold increase in the worm population.

The launch was originally planned for Tuesday afternoon, but was delayed, because of a problem with food for the mice. NASA discovered Monday that the food for the mouse-tronauts was moldy. More food was rushed in from California.