A spacecraft of SpaceX carrying two astronauts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched into outer space on Saturday – the first flight with humans towards the orbit of the Earth from the soil of the United States in almost a decade. Takeoff initiated just after 03:20 p.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center of Florida. Astronauts Douglas Hurley, 53, and Robert Behnken, 49, will spend around nineteen hours aboard the Crew Dragon capsule of SpaceX as it gradually drills its way toward the International Space Station.
A SpaceX rocket and spacecraft carrying 2 NASA astronauts soared into outer space today — marking the first time humans have traveled into Earth’s orbit from US soil in nearly a decade. Liftoff occurred just after 3:20 pm ET from Kennedy Space Center. https://t.co/246rIIVGXm
— KTVZ NewsChannel 21 (@KTVZ) May 30, 2020
The spaceship expected to dock with the orbital space station about at 10:29 a.m. ET on 31st May. The U.S. didn’t launch its own astronauts into outer space since 2011, the end of the Space Shuttle Program. Since then, the astronauts of NASA required to travel towards Russian and train on the Soyuz spacecraft of the country. Those seats of Russia cost NASA as more as $86 million each.
Crew Dragon has separated from Falcon 9’s second stage and is on its way to the International Space Station with @Astro_Behnken and @AstroDoug! Autonomous docking at the @Space_Station will occur at ~10:30 a.m. EDT tomorrow, May 31 pic.twitter.com/bSZ6yZP2bD
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 30, 2020
Chief of NASA’s Human Spaceflight quits before crew launch
Also, the launch marked the historic first time that an aerospace firm brings humans into the orbit of Earth. Since the last fifteen years, SpaceX has been working on the Crew Dragon spaceship. Previously, Doug Loverro, Chief of human spaceflight program of NASA resigned from his designation after six months from his appointment.
SPACEX LAUNCH: The launch also marked the first time in history that a commercial aerospace company has carried humans into Earth’s orbit. SpaceX has been working on the Crew Dragon spacecraft for 15 years. https://t.co/s6Oxn0hfNS
— News 3 Now / Channel 3000 (@WISCTV_News3) May 30, 2020
Crew Dragon Launch and COVID-19 pandemic
The launch of the Crew Dragon space capsule of SpaceX carried regardless of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which closed both government and private operations all over the United States. According to NASA, it needed to move forward with the mission to retain the International Space Station, a gigantic orbiting laboratory, fully staffed with the United States astronauts. SpaceX, NASA, and military personnel assembled in control rooms assist the launch, as well as they executed additional protection measures like changing control rooms at the start of the new shift to clean the previous room deeply.
Before the launch, Jim Bridenstine, the top official of the space agency, said that he hoped it would inspire surprise and halt the general public during the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 health crisis. On the Florida ground, the domestic officials braced for the arrival of the public, who expected to crowd at neighboring beaches, which reopened recently after several weeks of lockdown and restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Only some selected journalists allowed to cover and report the spacecraft launch but standing only at the press area at Kennedy Space Center, whereas strict social distancing guidelines and policies such as maintaining six-meter distance and wearing masks firmly followed. Bridenstine carried most of the briefings via phone, such as in-person interviews conducted separately with crew members of the news. The SpaceX launch also served as a type of litmus test for the push of NASA to partner more deeply with the private sector.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
SpaceX established the Crew Dragon capsule under the Commercial Crew Program of NASA, which for the first time in the history of the space agency, delivered much of the development, design, and testing of new spacecraft to the private sector. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded Boeing and SpaceX a fixed-price pact to complete the job and after the suffering of Boeing with a massive setback during a test flight without a crew last year.
The decision of the firm stunned with controversy, specifically in the initial days of the Commercial Crew Program. However, the success of Wednesday took as a major win for people at NASA who intended to depend deeply on similar agreements to help achieve the aims of the space agency. For example, Bridenstine optimistic about relying majorly on private sector partnerships to achieve the ambitious goal of NASA to land the United States astronauts on the moon in 2024.
Finally, what the agency is trying to accomplish is having several providers contending against each other on costs, safety, and innovation. And afterward, the space agency can be a customer, one customer of several customers, and it already knows that it will save a massive amount of money over the long term.