By Sara Muharremi, Staff Writer
The name “Elon Musk” has been mentioned quite a few times in headlines these past couple of years. One of the things that he is known for is his love for outer space and NASA. Back in 2002, Musk founded his SpaceX program which is described on their website as a spaceflight company that “designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.”
Most recently, SpaceX partnered up with NASA on November 15 to send four NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Nogushi, had been prepared for their six-month mission to the ISS as “Crew 1.” Hopkins had expressed the crew’s excitement for the mission and stated, “[w]e’re ready for this launch, we’re ready for our six months of work that is waiting for us on board the International Space Station and we’re ready for the return. Thank you to all the people at NASA and SpaceX and around the world that have helped us get to this point.”
Crew 1’s mission is the “ operational flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon astronaut taxi and the second Crew Dragon mission to carry passengers on board.” Back in May 2020, SpaceX launched its first crewed flight as a test mission to the ISS with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley for two months. Their trip to the station took almost 19 hours, but Crew 1’s trip was supposed to last half the time. The Falcon 9 rocket launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 7:27 p.m. EST, and docked with the ISS the next day on the 16 at 11:01 p.m. EST. They’re now going to embark on their six-month mission alongside three other crew members, already onboard the ISS, to continue spaceflight research.
Since SpaceX is a private company, this mission is a hopeful milestone for future commercial launches. Phil McAlister, the director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA, said in a pre-launch conference that “not only can NASA transport out astronauts to and from the [ISS] with U.S. systems, but now, for the first time in history, there is a commercial capability from a private sector entity to safely and reliably transport people to space.” There is still considerable work to be done, but this is a huge first step to be able to make spaceflight more affordable and inclusive.