With so many delays, we can finally say that NASA will send astronauts to the International Space Station with an American spacecraft once again. Seven years after the Space Shuttle program was dispatched, NASA announced the astronauts that will fly on board of the two companies’ spacecraft: Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX opened the doors to the media on Monday to show off the Dragon Capsule simulator, and the spacesuits. The four astronauts that will fly on “Crew Dragon” also showed up, ready to answer to some questions.
But what are the next steps for SpaceX and the crew?
There will be flight tests over flight tests, until NASA certifies that the capsule is fit for routine flights to and from the International Space Station.
Last month, SpaceX’s Dragon Capsule came from NASA’s Plum Brook Station, after it went through thermal vacuum and acoustic tests. It will start a mission without humans aboard in November.
The flight abort test will most likely take place in early 2019. The Capsule must be safely carried in case something goes wrong with the Falcon 9 rocket – again, the test will not have astronauts on board.
Bob Behnken, Air Force Colonel, and Doug Hurley, who is a former Marine Corps test pilot will be the first astronauts that will fly in the Capsule in the first crewed test. Hurley is excited about the new spacesuit: “The old space suits are really heavy. SpaceX started from scratch and built this in house. It’s pretty neat looking. I’ve worn the suit over 20 times already, and it’s lighter and a lot more comfortable to wear.”
A Safe Flight
The first crewed test will take place in April 2019.
At Monday’s event, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s Chief Operating Officer explained that safety is their first concern:
“We are not going to fly until we are ready to fly safely. We need to hit all the boxes and do everything we need to do to take astronauts from U.S. soil as often as NASA will let us.”
After all the tests prove to be successful, NASA will certify the spacecraft, and it will then be ready for crewed launches to the ISS. The first operational mission will have astronauts Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover aboard.
Astronauts know that flying to space can go wrong, even in the space era. Father of four daughters, Glover concludes that he is afraid of only one thing:
“The only thing I’m afraid of is not coming home to my family.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.