Author: Siggy Kahama
SpaceX has successfully engineered and launched a spacecraft that revolutionizes space travel and how astronauts will explore and research space in the near future. On Saturday, March 2, the Crew Dragon Capsule, a commercially-built spacecraft, took flight from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., toward the International Space Station about 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. The spacecraft landed at the space station Sunday, March 3 with 400 pounds of supplies and will make its return trip back to Earth five days after its arrival.
The entire procedure seemingly went flawlessly. The spacecraft did not actually send live human beings but instead sent a dummy model named Ripley, after the fictional character Ellen Ripley from the classic 1979 movie “Alien.” It also carried a spherical plush toy globe placed in proximity to Ripley, allowing the scientists to recognize at which point during space travel zero gravity commences for the capsule.
Elon Musk, Chief Executive of SpaceX, displayed a variety of emotions prior to and during the launch, telling a group of reporters at the launch site that he felt “emotionally exhausted” after the entire process. He stated, “That was super stressful, but it worked so far. We have to dock the station, we have to come back, but so far it has worked.” Musk also expressed that launching a spacecraft for human space travel has been a dream of his for 17 years. The main goal of his company since 2002 has been to make history in space travel, particularly in finding innovative ways to send humans to orbit.
The Crew Dragon is capable of carrying seven passengers into orbit, and potentially beyond orbit, at once. NASA released a video showcasing the interior of the capsule, showing off its white walls and metallic seats with black lining. The interior is reminiscent of science fiction films including “Star Wars” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. The height of the ship is a relatively small 27 feet with a diameter of 13 feet, weighing 3,000 kilograms.
Launching the Crew Dragon does not only make history as one of the first commercially-built private spacecraft dedicated to carrying both people and cargo, but it also enables NASA to source its travel methods from the U.S. instead of Russia. America has frequently used Russia’s Soyuz rockets, which costs millions of dollars per seat. If SpaceX rockets continue to be a reliable method of transportation, NASA’s outsourcing for rockets will significantly decrease.
At 8:07 ET on Sunday, March 3, the Crew Dragon Capsule successfully landed at the International Space Station, reported on NASA’s twitter page. The entire flight and landing, as well as hatching of the craft, was streamed live on NASA TV. The NASA Commerical Crew Twitter tweeted, “Astronauts on the @Space_Station have opened the hatch on @SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft! The station crew can now go inside the first American spacecraft to autonomously dock to the orbiting laboratory.”
SpaceX has now made history with its landing of the capsule at the International Space Station. The company is scheduled to send a live crew in the same spacecraft July of this year, according to the NASA schedule. Space travel continues to progress successfully, and soon enough it could be possible for non-astronauts to use these spacecrafts to explore the international space station and beyond.