For the first time ever, a private company has flown NASA astronauts into orbit. The SpaceX spacecraft made history after completing the first phase of mission in just one day. Two astronauts, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley took off from Kennedy Space Center in the US on 30th May and reached the International Space Station on 31st May.
It is a remarkable achievement because humans were travelling for the first time in this spacecraft known as Crew Dragon which was later renamed by the crew as Dragon Endeavor. This trip was also a test flight to analyze the performance of this ship by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
How Was Performance Of SpaceX Dragon Endeavor for International Space Station
NASA chose Behnken and Hurley for the mission because of their prior experience in flying unique spacecraft. According to the reports, both astronauts confirmed that the Dragon Endeavor performed really well.
The maximum speed of spacecraft was estimated at 17,500 mph which made it possible to complete the trip within 24 hours. The ship lifted off at 3:22 p.m. on 30th May and successfully docked exactly at 10:16 a.m on 31st May.
Reportedly, Hurley and Behnken seemed relaxed during the journey in a broadcast from the ship. Sometimes they were seen showing off toys and some slick zero gravity stunts. Their attitude was similar to the passionate Alan Shepard, who was the first American astronaut in space.
They also mentioned that the ship was already trying to dock on the International Space Station. They performed some burns (firing engine thrusters) that further raised the ship’s orbit and quickly brought them closer to the orbiting lab of the International Space Station.
Dragon Endeavor flew autonomously, but the astronauts could take over the controls at any time. During the broadcast, it was noted that they were the first astronauts to use a touchscreen control panel in a spacecraft. They did not face any hitch in maneuvering the Dragon.
Capture The Flag
The astronauts also admired Elon Musk’s SpaceX for making it possible for them to claim the flag that was briefly lost by another American crew in the 2011 Space Shuttle mission after which NASA stopped launching space flights from US centres.
That flag is the reward for Elon Musk for being able to launch American astronauts from the American soil. Quite recently Elon Musk named his newborn baby that confused a lot of people.
Why Didn’t NASA Launch This Mission Sooner?
Ever since the Space Shuttle program ended, NASA used to pay around 90 million USD to Russia for flying its astronauts to the International Space Station. Then SpaceX and Boeing were contracted to launch space missions in 2014.
Initially, Boeing had been NASA’s favourite partner but earlier this year it’s Starliner spacecraft failed a critical test which meant that it could not take astronauts into space. SpaceX was also encountering problems in developing the optimum spacecraft which took a long time for NASA to launch this mission.
Can Collaboration Of SpaceX And NASA Bring US Back Into Commercial Space Flights?
Reportedly, NASA admiration is also happy with the mission that can rejuvenate the commercial space tourism business in the US. It is a proud moment for NASA that foreshadows a major change within the company.
From now on the company will not focus on spending on expensive spacecraft and its operations, instead they will partner with growing commercial space companies like SpaceX. Both companies are also collaborating on a first Hollywood film in space starring Tom Cruise. Anyhow, the mission is not complete yet, the Dragon still has to bring the astronauts safely back home.