NASA, SpaceX successfully launch first manned mission to space in Crew Dragon
New Delhi : After almost two decades of hard work, Elon Musk's aerospace company, SpaceX, sent two astronauts successfully to the space in collaboration with NASA. The flight marked the first time astronauts have launched into orbit from American soil in nearly a decade, and SpaceX is now the first company to send passengers to orbit on a privately made vehicle.
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are the two astronauts who took the flight to enjoy the moment of pride. They rode into space inside SpaceX’s new automated spacecraft called the Crew Dragon, a capsule designed to take people to and from the International Space Station.
Strapped inside the capsule, the duo lifted off on top of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 3:22PM ET on Saturday.
The rocket left the Crew Dragon into its orbit in about 12 minutes and now the astronauts will stay in orbit for approximately one day before attempting to dock with the international space station.
“Bob and Doug, on behalf of the entire launch team, thanks for flying with Falcon 9 today,” Crew Dragon’s chief engineer said to the two astronauts after they reached orbit. “We hope you enjoyed the ride and wish you a great mission.” SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket also successfully landed on one of the company’s drone ships following takeoff, making for a smooth launch throughout.
Watch the launch:
After six years of development and testing on the Crew Dragon, SpaceX pulled ahead in the race to launch humans first. Today’s mission is SpaceX’s last big test flight for that program, meant to determine if the Crew Dragon is ready to start regularly carrying NASA astronauts to the ISS in the years ahead.
The mission also held much importance to America as the last time people launched to orbit from the US was during the final flight of NASA’s Space Shuttle on July 8th, 2011. Since then, Russia’s Soyuz rocket has been the only vehicle available to do crewed flights to the ISS, and just one seat on the Soyuz runs NASA about $80 million.
“They’re laying the foundation for a new era in human spaceflight,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said before launch. “It’s an era in human spaceflight where more space is going to be available to more people than ever before.”
It’s not a total victory yet. Behnken and Hurley will spend the next 19 hours in orbit and try to get some sleep before tomorrow’s next big event: docking with the space station.
Earlier, the mission was planned for May 27, but due to bad weather it got delayed. “Bob and Doug, who have now gone through this exercise twice, they need to get some rest,” Bridenstine said after the launch. “But I can guarantee you there will be no rest for a good amount of time while they’re up there in orbit.”
Another big factor remains that the two astronauts have to return home safely too and test the Crew Dragon’s ability to return humans safely to Earth. NASA hasn’t decided when the pair will head home; it’ll be sometime between the next six and 16 weeks. When that decision is made, Behnken and Hurley will climb back into their Crew Dragon capsule and begin the intense journey back through our planet’s atmosphere.
“I am not going to celebrate until Bob and Doug are home safely,” Bridenstine said.