After more than a decade of collaboration, NASA and SpaceX are finally ready to launch its first crew to space.
This historic feat will culminate on Wednesday, May 27. Launching from Pad 39A of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will launch into space.
The Falcon 9 rocket will send the Crew Dragon capsule into the International Space Station. Aboard the capsule are astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. The team calls the mission Demo-2.
History 10 years in the making
This is the first orbital crew flight for NASA since July 2011 when the space shuttle retires. Many consider the Crew Dragon capsule as one of the successors to the space shuttle. The other successor is under development from Boeing.
NASA’s collaboration with private firms has been running since 2010. It is around this time when NASA launches its Commercial Crew Program. After 10 years, the project finally launches its first capsule into space.
Former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman has this to say:
“There were a lot off skeptics back in the day, and a lot of uncertainty about whether or not this model was a good idea even.”
The original plan includes the launch of a working spaceship by 2015. However, several technical and commercial hurdles came into play. The delays did not surprise many as it is one of the first public-private partnerships of such magnitude.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 25, 2020
Following NASA’s call for partners, a number of private space firms answer the call. Among them are SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, Paragon Space Development, and United Launch Alliance.
Tons of hurdles
The entire project is beset with all kinds of problems. The most notable of which is lack of funding.
Despite being a government project, lawmakers are still skeptical to fund it. This pushes the project to a sluggish rate. The people behind it eventually ask private partnership for it to get the project going.
In March 2019, SpaceX successfully launch the Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS for the first time. The mission, Demo-1, took eight days to reach its destination. However, the same capsule explodes during a ground test just a month later pushing the launch even further.
NASA wants to bill the Demo-2 mission as a successful public-private partnership. The space agency also wants to use the mission as the ultimate jump-off point for the future of space travel. With SpaceX leading the way, the agency might just be able to pull this one off.
Image courtesy of SpaceX/Wikimedia Commons