On May 30th, Elon Musk’s SpaceX firm launched two NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley aboard its Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) – a journey that’s expected to take around 24 hours. Read on to see why this is being celebrated as a historical event in space travel!
What is the Crew Dragon’s mission and How long will it last?
The Crew Dragon capsule is expected to take the two NASA Astronauts to the orbit location, roughly 250 miles or 400 km from the earth’s surface. Post which, the Endeavour capsule will dock with International Space Station (ISS) for the test mission period of 120 days.
During this period, the SpaceX capsule will remain docked at the ISS while orbiting the earth at nearly 17,500 mph or 28000 kmph speed! Post the mission term completion, the two astronauts will climb back into the capsule and return to earth. The capsule is planned to have a sea landing aided with parachutes, where it will be recovered by one of the SpaceX’s boats.
Who is funding the SpaceX’s Mission to ISS and Why?
After retiring its Space shuttles, NASA started using the Russian Soyuz rockets to travel to the International Space Station (ISS). This has been the process for almost a decade now with Russia charging the US almost US 80 Million dollars per seat for the travel.
Now the US government was not happy with this because of two reasons
- The US government is relying on another country’s services for its travel and spending resources on a non-US firm
- If Russia’s Soyuz is retired, then there is no other alternative solution
To mitigate this, NASA chose two private firms – SpaceX and Boeing to build commercial launch vehicles for space travel. The reason to use the private sector was to drive costs down through competition and efficiency. So why was SpaceX selected for the first launch from the two? Simply put, SpaceX beat Boeing to it, by bringing a feasible, viable and a proven solution.
Who are the two NASA astronauts piloting this mission?
The two test Astronauts are Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, both former US military pilots before joining NASA.
“Let’s light this candle,” commander Hurley said before liftoff, words used by Alan Shepard on America’s first human spaceflight, in 1961.
Hurley has commanded the last Atlantis Space Shuttle mission to ISS as well. For this mission, both the pilots were trained in the Crew Dragon simulator at SpaceX headquarters for many months.
Wait, Is that a Dinosaur toy floating around in the Crew Dragon capsule?
The Crew Dragon capsule had three valuable cargo payloads in it – the two Astronauts and a sequined, Dinosaur plush toy!
The Dino toy is not just for the comfort of the Astronauts while rocketing towards space, but it also plays an important role in the launch sequence. This has been a tradition at NASA for years and these plush toys are called “Zero-G Indicators”. Simply put, if you see this toy floating around in your capsule, it means that the spaceship has left the Earth’s gravitational pull.
The replicas of this dino toy were put for public sale but were reported to be out of stock soon. There are no reports as of now, as to when it will be back on sale.
Why is this launch celebrated as a historical event?
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley ‘s flight was the start of a public-private partnership that promises to lead to greater innovation and more exciting possibilities than ever. It also was the first U.S. launch of its astronauts in the past decade.
What’s next for Elon Musk and SpaceX?
Elon Musk is truly a visionary and this shows up in SpaceX’s future goals as well. While Endeavour’s launch will become a new norm where commercial travel with space tourism becoming a reality.
SpaceX is also touted to be preparing for a manned lunar landing and in the future for travel to Mars, both of which are going to be quite exciting. There are also other companies in foray including Amazon’s Blue Origin. Only time will tell how our future is going to shape up.
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