On Wednesday, two astronauts will fly to the International Space Station, or ISS, in a private spacecraft. It will be the first crewed private space launch ever, and the culmination of a decade-long collaboration between SpaceX and NASA. It’s also, perhaps, an inflection point of a new space age led by private entities.
Loren Grush is a senior science reporter at The Verge. She told Texas Standard host David Brown on Tuesday that while numerous private space launches have occurred in recent years, this week’s SpaceX flight with Crew Dragon marks the first private craft to actually take people into space.
“With this new program, called the Commercial Crew Program, NASA decided to relinquish some of that responsibility and give it to the private sector,” Grush said.
Along with SpaceX, Boeing is also creating spacecraft that can deliver astronauts to the space station. But NASA is still involved in those projects. The agency even invested in development of the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle.
“They’ve also provided a lot of guidance and expertise in terms of testing and safety requirements,” Grush said.
Once launched, Crew Dragon will spend 19 hours in orbit before docking with the ISS. Grush said the docking procedure is automated, requiring limited intervention from the spacecraft crew.
Crew Dragon is set to launch at 3:30 p.m. CST on May 27. SpaceX, along with NASA’s Johnson and Kennedy space centers, will play roles in launching and controlling the Crew Dragon mission.
Last week, Douglas Loverro, who was in charge of NASA’s human exploration program, resigned, just nine months after taking the job. Grush said Loverro told her he left because of “some kind of risk that he took, earlier this year, that was unrelated to the mission.” He didn’t elaborate, but said his departure was unrelated to Crew Dragon. Grush said she “trusts” what she heard from Loverro.
Web story by Shelly Brisbin.
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