SpaceX’s ‘Resilience’ takes 4 astronauts to NASA’s new era of spaceflight

It is not yet the same as stopping on a commuter flight from New York to Washington or hiring a car from Avis, but the SpaceX-built capsule of four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday began making space travel normal and mundane. Was an important step in the direction. .

In the future, instead of relying on a spacecraft built by NASA or other governments, NASA astronauts and anyone else with enough money can by ticket on a commercial rocket.

“It’s actually a commercial launch vehicle,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein said. Said during the post-launch news conference, “And we are grateful to our partners at SpaceX for providing this.”

NASA launched Sunday night, designated as the first operational flight of the Crux Dragon spacecraft and built and operated by SpaceX, a rocket company launched by LA Musk. Four astronauts aboard – three from NASA, one from Jaxa, the Japanese space agency – left Earth from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

A crew dragon transported two astronauts – Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley – to the space station in May, but it was a test flight to shake off the remaining glits in the system.

The four astronauts on this flight are Michael S. Hopkins, Shannon Walker and NASA’s Victor J. Glover, and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

NASA and SpaceX completed the certification process last week, providing a seal of approval from the space agency that SpaceX has met the specifications set to routinely take NASA astronauts into orbit. The launch, known as Crew-1, is a regularly scheduled trip to take four crew members for a six-month stay at the space station.

“It marks the end of the system’s development phase,” Phil McAlester, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA, said in an interview with reporters on Thursday. “For the first time in history, the private sector unit has the commercial ability to move people safely and reliably into space.”

Despite Iffy’s weather – forecasts gave only a 50-50 chance of favorable conditions on the launchpad – the skies remained clear enough. At 7:27 pm Eastern time, nine engines of the Falcon 9 rocket fueled life and illuminated the night sky as rockets over the Atlantic Ocean.

Moving away from the second stage, which continued to circumnavigate, the Falcon 9 booster turned around and landed on a floating platform. SpaceX now, as of course, retrieves and reuses the boosters. The same rocket stage will be used to launch the next quartet of astronauts into the space station next spring.

A crew dragon named Resilance is taken to the dock at around 11 a.m. on Monday after a 27.5-hour journey as the capsule is caught with the space station, which is traveling at over 17,000 mph.

When Mr. Glover arrives, he will become the first black astronaut to serve as a member of the station’s crew in a few years in the 20s, people who have boarded the International Space Station. Other Black Astronauts have previously boarded the space station, but they were there for a briffer stop during spacecraft missions that helped collect the orbiting outpost.

When asked during a news conference on Monday about his ideas about making history, Mr. Glover gave this importance a lot.

“It is something to be celebrated once we complete it, and I am honored to be in this position and to be part of this great and experienced crew” he said. “And I look forward to getting up there and doing my best, you know, we are worthy of all the work put into setting us up for this mission. You know, the opposite of the election – that which is in the past or the past. I have – this mission is still ahead of me. Therefore, I will get there, and I will talk to you once I get on board. “

He also said in an interview last week Christian Chronicle, A revelation of Christ’s churches, that the milestone was “bittersweet”.

“I have some amazing colleagues, who could really do this, and some amazing people who would go after me,” Mr. Glover said. “I wish it would have happened already, but I try not to pay too much attention to it.”

Charles F., who served as administrator of NASA under President Barack Obama. Bolden Jr. said that while Mr. Glover was making history, he should not feel burdened.

“Many of us have the opportunity to talk regularly with him and help him to keep it to a minimum and understand that he is not carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders,” said Mr. Bolden, who Blacks are also there. Spent nearly 700 hours in space as a NASA astronaut. “He shouldn’t feel unusual responsibility because he’s black. He should just be another crew member and have a good time.”

On Sunday afternoon, as the astronauts prepared for launch, they were visited by Mr. Bridenstein and Gwenne Shotwell, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX.

For Mr. Bridenstein, this was the last astronaut launch he would see as the leader of NASA. in an interview Last week with the magazine Aviation Week, Mr Bridenstein said he may be in his current role before the January 20 inauguration, even if asked by the incoming Biden administration.

Mr Musk, the chief executive of SpaceX, said he remained out of sight even after Kovid-19 had a “moderate case”.

At the space station, the four astronauts who were removed on Sunday will already join three others: NASA’s Kate Rubins and two Russians, Sergey Reznikov and Sergei Kud-Severchkov.

What astronauts have they been doing for the last two decades on the space station: Overseeing scientific experiments, Performing maintenance tasks, talking to students on the ground.

Astronauts, for example, would help collect their own biological samples, so that they could study how dietary changes affect the body. Astronauts will also be growing radishes, the latest experiment to find out if food can be grown in space. (Red lettuce and mizuna mustard greens Is one of the first foods astronauts have studied.) They will also test whether the fungus can break the asteroid rock and help extract useful metals – a scientific prelude to supernatural mining operations , And for a follow up A similar, successful experiment that uses bacteria.

With the crew dragon entering operational status, the crew of the space station can be increased to seven. Since the retirement of space shuttles, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft was the only means for astronauts coming to and from the space station. The Soyuz has only three seats, and they also serve as lifeboats in case of an emergency – with two Soyuz docked there, the crew had a maximum size of six.

But for now, there are no places to sleep for the seven astronauts. “We currently have fewer crew quarters at board station,” Mr. Hopkins said Monday during a news conference. “There are plans to have a temporary station there. Not sure when to come. It may reach the middle mission, or we cannot get up there even while on board. “

The commander of the SpaceX crew, Mr. Hopkins, said he may have slept in the crew dragon.

During the post-launch news conference, Ms. Shotwell stated that SpaceX would launch about seven dragon missions during the next 15 months, some to launch astronauts, some to carry cargo. They would be almost all for NASA, she said, but it was possible that a private client could be involved.

Some companies have announced that they are buying flights on Crew-Dragon to make private citizens richer to stay out of this world. One company, Axiom Space, will take three tourists to the space station, probably in late 2021.

A passenger may be actor Tom Cruise. Mr. Bridenstein confirmed in May that NASA was working with Mr. Cruise to help make a film on the space station.

Michael T., President and CEO of Axiom Space. Sufredini would not confirm that Mr. The company does not disclose information about its customers, saying whether or not Cruise was booked on Axiom Flight.

Last week, Axiom said that all three available seats were sold. The fourth seat will be filled by Michael Lopez-Alegria, a NASA astronaut who is an AASOM employee.

Another company, Space Adventures, is offering a free-flight crew dragon flight that will not dock at the space station, but will instead go around the Earth on a high elliptical orbit that will provide passengers with views of the planet from very high . Perch.

Commenting on the conclusion of the Sunday night news conference, Mr. Bridgestein said that he has said many times before that a new era is opening up for NASA and the space industry.

“We are now basically going into operational missions that are commercial in nature, where NASA is a customer.” He said, “Our goal is to be a customer of many customers in a very commercial market in low-Earth orbit.”

Catherine J. Wu contributed reporting.

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