SpaceX delivered 2 astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA Sunday, following up a historic liftoff with an equally smooth docking in yet another first for Elon Musk’s company.
With test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken poised to take over manual control if necessary, the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked automatically, no assistance needed.
It was the 1st time a privately built and owned spacecraft carried astronauts to the orbiting lab in its nearly 20 yrs.
NASA considers this the opening move in a business revolution encircling Earth and eventually stretching to the Moon and Mars.
NASA chief Jim Bridenstine has said resuming launches of American astronauts on American-made rockets from US soil is the space agency’s Top priority.
“I am breathing a sigh of relief, but I will also tell you I’m not gonna celebrate until Bob and Doug are home safely.” said chief Bridenstine.
For Mr. Musk, the launch represents a milestone for the reusable rockets his company pioneered to make spaceflight less costly and more frequent. And it marks the 1st time commercially developed space vehicles – owned and operated by a private entity and not NASA have carried Americans into space.
The last time NASA launched astronauts into space aboard a brand new vehicle was 40 yrs ago at the start of the space shuttle program.
Mr. Musk, the high-tech entrepreneur who made his fortune in Silicon Valley, is also CEO of EV maker and battery manufacturer Tesla Inc.(NASDAQ:TSLA) He founded Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX in Y 2002.
Mr. Hurley, 53 anni, and Behnken, 49 anni NASA employees under contract to fly with SpaceX, are expected to remain at the space station for several wks, assisting a short-handed crew aboard the orbital laboratory.
Boeing Co (NYSE:BA), producing its own launch system in competition with SpaceX, is expected to fly its CST-100 Starliner vehicle with Astronauts aboard for the 1st time next year.
NASA has awarded nearly $8-B combined to SpaceX and Boeing for development of their rival rockets.
President Trump also hailed the launch as a major advance toward the goal of eventually sending men to Mars.
He was joined at the viewing by Mr. Musk, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Florida congressman Matt Gaetz and Senator Rick Scott.
Early Saturday, the crew bid goodbye to their families. Prior to climbing into a specially designed Tesla EV for the ride to the launch site, Mr Behnken told his son, “Be good for mom. Make her life easy.”
During the drive, Messrs Behnken and Hurley passed former astronaut Garrett Reisman who held a sign saying, “Take me with you.”
Have a healthy weekend, Keep the Faith!