image courtesy of NASA comerical crew program photo by NASA/Bill ingalls
On 30th of May 2020 despite the forces of nature conspiring against them, be it Covid-19 or the weather pushing the launch back three days, the partnership between NASA and SpaceX has finally paid off, as we saw their collaboration result in the first Launch from American soil in 9 years. The launch was also a first for the world of Commercial spaceflight, an area sponsored by Nasa’s Commercial Crew program that aims to develop America’s aerospace industry through partnerships with companies like SpaceX and Boeing. The launch saw astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley reach for the stars in a SpaceX dragon capsule, unique from its predecessors in its ability to take humans into space, ushering in a new age for commercial spaceflight. The Dragon capsule was launched using a Falcon 9 rocket, a design that boasts the ability to land and be reused in a stunt that looks as if it were something from a science fiction film.
Whilst this may be a first for SpaceX it is not a first for the astronauts aboard who have both spent time in space, with Behnken having logged an impressive 708 hours in space including six spacewalks whilst his partner for the trip, Hurley, spent time as part of the space shuttle Atlantis’ crew on a number of missions, as well as being part of a mission that represented all five of the international partner that made the ISS Possible; NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, CSA and JAXA with a record 13 astronauts aboard the ISS at that time.
Of course, once they docked at the ISS, 19 hours post launch, the next test will begin as the crew and the capsule must spend 210 days in orbit to prove their readiness to be used in future missions although this mission can be cut short if necessary. In this time the astronauts will assist in ongoing scientific investigations aboard the ISS.
What’s more this movement into commercial Spaceflight will hopefully see a change in the public’s ability to go into space, as the launch, named DM-2 or the more catchy name Launch America, as it reduces cost per launch so who knows perhaps this will be the beginning of humanities future among the stars.
The launch comes at an interesting time in Americas history as we see advancements in one of humanities greatest accomplishments at the same time that terrible and tragic events have occurred. We cannot ignore the problems of our world in favour of the excitement of the future, instead we must use the great potential of our future to inspire us to do better and improve the world we live in, be it saving people’s lives in the pandemic by staying home, or supporting the change we need to see in our world.
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