04.27.20 - NASA announced on Friday that it has set May 27 as the target launch date for sending two astronauts to the International Space Station from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, aboard a rocket built by the company SpaceX.
That would end a drought of nearly nine years since the last time people headed to orbit from American soil. On July 8, 2011, the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off from Launchpad 39A; it returned to Earth 11 days later. Since then, NASA has relied on Russia and its Soyuz rockets for transportation to and from the space station.
This time, the launch will again occur at 39A, at 4:32 p.m. on May 27, but almost everything else will be different. This is a new dawn for space travel one that will be dominated by SpaceX and Boeing which I think many would agree is a more optimal alternative than to having our Astronauts hitch rides on Russian rockets with all the post-Cold War irony that entails.
The first crewed mission is a final step for SpaceX to verify that its Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule meet NASA’s requirements. SpaceX conducted a successful demonstration flight — without astronauts aboard — in March last year, but then ran into further obstacles and delays.
In January, SpaceX conducted another critical test, launching the same capsule unmanned and deliberately destroyed the rocket to show that the escape system was capable of whisking astronauts to safety in case of an emergency.
If SpaceX’s demonstration mission succeeds, it would be followed by what NASA calls its first operational mission for the Crew Dragon. That flight would take four astronauts — three from NASA and one from the Japanese space agency — to the space station, putting NASA and SpaceX one step closer towards it’s goal of a manned mission to Mars.
Source: New York Times