Last weekend, the world witnessed 2 NASA astronauts launch from America for the first time in almost 10 years. Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley joined Expedition 63 aboard the International Space Station. They docked at 1:02pm EDT on 31st May. Known as the SpaceX Demo-2 Crew mission, the delivery of astronauts to the ISS marks the very first crewed mission using commercially built spacecraft.
Since the decomissioning of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA astronauts have been sent into space using Russian Soyuz capsules, and never from the US. But that all changed last weekend, as Bob and Doug launched in the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop the Falcon 9 rocket. Both of these were designed and built by Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX.
An Historical Launch
The launch was broadcast in its entirety. It even included the successful landing of the reusable part of the Falcon 9 aboard a boat in the Atlantic. After being postponed due to poor weather on the 27th, Bob and Doug took off on the 30th at 3:22pm. Live coverage continued until the 2 astronauts were safely aboard and settling in.
Once in orbit, the Dragon took about 21 hours to approach and dock with the ISS. Arriving at 10:16am EDT, the docking procedure took over 2 hours, with the hatch opening at 1:02pm EDT. The Dragon spacecraft will now continue to operate as part of the space station, performing tests of its capabilities. Once tests are completed, it will undock and return to Earth for a parachute landing in the Atlantic.
The highly anticipated launch of Bob and Doug is sure to pave the way for a new era of space exploration. With the advent of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the commercial spaceflight sector is growing. It’s sure to be vital to NASA’s plans for future space missions. As interest grows, future astronauts could make it to the Moon, Mars and beyond!