Four astronauts, put into orbit by a SpaceX crew kite, boarded the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday. NASA hopes many routine missions will end US reliance on Russian missiles.
The spacecraft “Resilience” docked autonomously on Monday (0401 GMT Tuesday) at 11:01 pm at the space station around 400 kilometers above the US state of Ohio in the Midwest and completed a 27.5-hour journey.
The three Americans of the crew – Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker – as well as the Japanese Soichi Noguchi floated in weightlessness through a hatch onto the ISS, where they were cheered and hugged by the three crew members of the station.
“Thank you for welcoming you all,” said Kathy Leuders, director of NASA space programs, Kathy Leuders, in a video message sent to the astronauts. “I just want to tell you how proud we are of you.”
Prior to this, Mission Commander Hopkins gave pilot Glover his “golden pen,” a NASA tradition, when an astronaut first crossed the 100-kilometer Karman Line, which marks the official boundary of space.
Mr. Glover is the first black astronaut to complete an extended stay on the ISS, while Mr. Noguchi is the first non-American to go into orbit in a private spacecraft.
The crew joins two Russians and an American on board the station and will stay for six months.
SpaceX briefly broadcast live images from the capsule showing the astronauts in their seats, which neither the Russians nor the Americans had done before.
US President-elect Joe Biden hailed the launch on Twitter as “proof of the power of science and what we can achieve by harnessing our innovation, ingenuity and determination,” while President Donald Trump said it was “great” designated.
The Crew Dragon capsule earlier this week became the first spacecraft to be certified by NASA since the space shuttle nearly 40 years ago. The launcher is a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
At the end of its missions, the Crew Dragon uses parachutes and then splashes into the water like in the Apollo era.
SpaceX is expected to launch two more crewed flights for NASA in 2021, including one in the spring and four cargo refueling missions over the next 15 months.
NASA turned to SpaceX and Boeing after shutting down the checkered space shuttle program in 2011, which missed its main goals of making space travel affordable and safe.
The agency will have spent more than $ 8 billion on the Commercial Crew program by 2024 in the hope that the private sector can address NASA’s “near-earth orbit” needs so it can embark on its return to the moon and concentrate back then on to Mars.
SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, skipped its much older rival Boeing, whose program stalled after a failed test of its unscrewed Starliner last year.
SpaceX’s success doesn’t mean the US will stop making trips with Russia, however, said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine. The aim is an “exchange of seats” between American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts.
Bridenstine also stated that it would be necessary in case any of the programs were unavailable for a certain period of time.
The reality, however, is that US-Russia space relations – one of the few bright spots in their bilateral relationship – have frayed in recent years.
Russia has announced it will not be a partner in the Artemis program to return to the moon in 2024, claiming the NASA-led mission is too US-centered.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency, has repeatedly made fun of SpaceX’s technology. He told a state news agency that he was unimpressed by the Crew Dragon’s “fairly rough” water landing and said his agency had developed a methane missile that could be reused 100 times.
The fact that a national space agency feels moved to compare itself to a company probably confirms NASA’s public-private strategy.
The creation of SpaceX has also taken a valuable stream of income from Roscosmos.
The cost of round-trip Russian missile flights had risen, and was estimated to be around $ 85 million per astronaut last year.
Presidential transitions are always a difficult time for NASA, and Joe Biden’s rise in January is likely to be no different.
The agency has not yet received the tens of billions of dollars from Congress to complete the Artemis program.
Bridenstine has announced that he will step down to allow the new president to set his own goals for space exploration.
So far, Mr Biden has not commented on the schedule for 2024.
Democratic party documents say they support NASA’s aspirations for the Moon and Mars, but also emphasize increasing the agency’s geosciences division to better understand how climate change is affecting our planet.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)