In the spring of 2020, SpaceX intends to send two astronauts to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX recently completed tests that showed that in the event of an accident, the Crew Dragon capsule is capable of transporting astronauts to safety. The test is part of NASA's Commercial Crew, a joint program between the space agency and private companies to build spaceships that can take astronauts to and from the ISS.
A new era of US space travel
Since 2011, after the completion of the Space Shuttle mission, NASA has been buying seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to send astronauts to the ISS. However, these seats are becoming more and more expensive: one round trip seat now costs NASA about $ 85 million. So the space agency launched its Commercial Crew program to stimulate the development of new US-made spacecraft, a joint NASA-SpaceX program designed to do just that.
Astronauts Bob Behnke and Doug Hurley, who will be the first humans to go into space aboard a private spacecraft, hope their flight will usher in a new era in US space travel. Business Insider writes that Boeng is also building a spacecraft as part of the Commercial Crew program, but SpaceX will still be the first.
NASA astronauts train in SpaceX space suits
Recall that during the latest tests, SpaceX launched one of its Falcon 9 rockets and deliberately detonated it. It was the final step in a long process of testing the Crew Dragon A capsule, designed to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Read more about this exciting event in our special material.
In addition to the obvious technological advancements, NASA's Commercial Crew program is beneficial to the US economy. Now private companies are competing for billions of dollars in government contracts and SpaceX and Boeing have come out on top.
How is the preparation for the historic flight going?
SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft
In total, Benke and Hurley have been working with each other for twenty years, and have been preparing for the spring flight since 2018. They also advised SpaceX on the development of the Crew Dragon's internal system, as crew safety is a top priority on any space mission. Flight preparation includes intense pre-flight training as well as trial training on launch day. Both men told The Atlantic that they are looking forward to being sent to the ISS in a new spacecraft. At the moment, they have already been trained to work with the mechanisms of the spacecraft, tried on new spacesuits and met with the head of SpaceX to test the Crew Dragon escape capsule.