Friday night, in the skies above Eugene, a series of brightly glowing lights captivated spectators below. Accounts of anywhere from a dozen to 60 lights grabbed the attention of people on the ground, curious as to their nature. Instead of unidentified flying objects, they came from a terrestrial origin. They came from SpaceX program Starlink.
They appeared at approximately 9:26 pm. Shortly thereafter, phone calls poured into KATU2 newsroom reporting the mysterious lights. They fielded calls from Gearhart, Salem, McMinnville, Canby and Lake Oswego in addition to Eugene.
A website for the SpaceX Starlink program predicted the timing. It also stated another viewing came around very early Saturday, at around 4:33 am.
The satellites catch rays from the sun when the perfectly align with it, reflecting back down to Earth. The glint of sunlight results in the display Eugene experienced Friday evening.
SpaceX Program to Deliver Internet in Rural Areas
The stated purpose of the Starlink program is to deliver high speed internet to areas otherwise incapable of receiving it. Since satellites float in orbit and essentially beam internet down, they avoid pitfalls of ground networks.
Their website refers to it as a “global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations,” and says its capabilities exceed traditional satellite internet. It began this year in the northern US as well as Canada. However, SpaceX hopes to begin expansion next year with the lofty ultimate goal of “global coverage.”
The profits from the Starlink program will serve an even loftier ambition. SpaceX plans to use them to fund their Mars program, in which they intend to put humans on the red planet by 2024.
Alongside SpaceX, other companies, such as commercial jet behemoth Boeing. After repeated budget cuts for NASA, private corporations poured into space travel as a field for expansion. Their aggressive pursuit aims to capitalize on the future of humanity’s exploration, banking on its ability to doggedly chase after the stars in the coming decades.