SpaceX and NASA Launch humans into space from the US soil after a decade.
This makes SpaceX the first privately owned company to carry humans to the ISS. After 2011, NASA held back from their human missions as their shuttles were not safe enough.
It was also getting incredibly expensive to carry out space missions. This is because NASA couldn’t refuel their rocket boosters and use them again until SpaceX stepped in.
After several failed test attempts, SpaceX is finally so close to perfecting their reusable rocket system. The Crew Dragon Demo-2 is on a successful mission track till now but the good news doesn’t end there.
Let us discuss how the Demo-2 completely changes the way we approach space missions.
The History Behind The Launch
Up until today, NASA was completely dependent on the Russian Space Program to launch its astronauts.
Russia demanded over $90 million per astronaut which was too high a price to pay. This is exactly when Elon Musk stepped up and founded SpaceX with a huge vision.
He hopes that someday his spacecraft would help the world colonize Mars. The major portion of the budget goes into the construction of the rocket boosters.
But unfortunately, once they reach the orbit, they cannot travel back to the earth to get refuelled and used again. Elon knew that the only way to reduce the cost of a launch is to make the rocket boosters reusable.
The company encountered several failed attempts. When the company saw their first successful test, It was almost on the verge of shutting down. NASA could see the potential which SpaceX had and began funding their projects.
Eventually, SpaceX started their “Cargo Dragon” program which could carry loads to the ISS. The “Cargo Dragon” evolved into “Crew Dragon” which has now launched two of our astronauts into space.
The SpaceX and NASA Launch had to get postponed initially due to poor weather conditions. But fortunately, the companies had successive launch dates planned and ready.
The launch took place at the historical site of Apollo 11 which was the first manned space flight that took humans to the moon.
At 3.22 PM, May 30, 2020, the crew achieved successful liftoff and the astronauts were on their way to the ISS. Both the President and The Vice President of the United States were present on the site to witness this historical moment.
12 minutes into the launch, the Falcon 9 booster separated from the capsule as per the plan.
Falcon-9’s Reentry Into Orbit
Unlike most other space missions, the Crew Dragon Demo-2 had several mission objectives. One of which was to land Falcon-9 safely back on earth.
Falcon 9 was Crew Dragon’s main engine and once it brought the crew up to orbit, it started its descent.
SpaceX had their drone ship pondering over the Atlantic, ready to welcome the booster on its reentry. As there were no disturbances in the weather, Falcon 9 landed safely on the site as planned.
The Journey Towards The ISS
The Spaceshuttle could operate completely autonomous. Although Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley can take over manual control anytime.
The shuttle has touch panels which are very similar to the ones on Tesla. The crew can use it to control their trajectory. The shuttle also has an advanced temperature control system.
It could keep the temperature inside the crew cabin within 80 degrees. The shuttle could achieve successful docking to the ISS at around 10 AM on Sunday.
Both Bog and Doug has been to space before and not to forget that they are military pilots as well. But this would have been a whole different experience, flying on a next-generation space shuttle.
The Significance Of Crew Dragon
To have a better understanding of the SpaceX and NASA Launch, we have to go back to 2014. NASA allotted a $6.8 billion contract to SpaceX and Boeing combined.
Boeing observed several failed attempts while carrying cargo to the ISS. The SpaceX’s booster exploded during a supply mission to the ISS. This was causing the company to stumble on the other side.
The next booster caused a rocket to explode even before the launch. Following this, the Crew Dragon capsule exploded. This happened when the company was testing its launch abort systems.
It was pushing the company further into disbelief. SpaceX never gave up and rectified all the mistakes in their shuttle one by one. This earned them the trust of NASA and the US government.
A lot of efforts went into upgrading the Crew Dragon capsule. If this mission turns out to be successful, the Crew Dragon will begin carrying up to 4 people.
When Does The Crew return?
The SpaceX and NASA Launch had everything planned in advance. But they are yet to announce their strategy of return. The astronauts might return to earth anywhere after 6 to 16 weeks from the date of docking.
As NASA couldn’t carry out human missions for a long time, the ISS has just one US astronaut onboard. Bog and Doug would assist Mr Cassidy on the ISS during their stay.
The Crew would also continue to test if the capsule to its limits. Bog and Doug took classes to refresh their memory on spacewalking. They also seem to have received training to control various functions of the ISS.
The SpaceX and NASA Launch might seem to have succeeded but the real hurdles are yet to begin. The mission is just half-way on its path.
The mission control has to bring the astronauts back to safety and test the capabilities of the Crew Dragon during the re-entry. But there is no denying the fact that this launch would rewrite history as we know it.
Space travel is only going to get safer and even more affordable from now on. We are fortunate to have witnessed an important page which the history books of our children would have.
SpaceX has various plans which would allow common people to visit space. If things go right, Elon’s plan for colonizing Mars is not so far away.