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NASA astronauts on historic mission with SpaceX will return to Earth on August 2

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 2 jun 2020, 7:14 por Plataforma Sites Dgac   [ actualizado el 11 sept 2020, 7:40 ]
US NASA astronauts Douglas “Doug” Hurley and Robert “Bob” Behnken will return to Earth aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule on August 2, 2020, after staying on the International Space Station for just over two months, on a historic mission in which a private company sent astronauts into space for the first time in history.
American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley with Chris Cassidy and other astronauts after arriving to the International Space Station.

From left to right, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley dressed in an astronaut's suit with a new design.

The takeoff of the falcon 9 rocket, which transported the Crew Dragon capsule with the astronauts, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, in the United States of America.

Image of the SpaceX's Crew Dragon space capsule while it maneuvers to dock at the International Space Station.
On Saturday, May 30, 2020, the eyes of the scientific establishment and millions of people and enthusiasts in the United States and around the world, including Chile, followed with attention, suspense and emotion the launch of the Crew Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral, in which for the first time in almost 10 years two astronauts ascended into space from US territory. 

It was the joint mission “Demo 2” between the US space agency (NASA) and tycoon Elon Musk’s private aerospace company SpaceX. Originally, the SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that carried the capsule with veteran astronauts Hurley and Behnken was scheduled to take off on Wednesday, May 27, but the launch had to be postponed to Saturday, May 30, due to adverse weather conditions. 

The liftoff from Complex 39A of the Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, took place after 15:30, Chilean time, and was followed by millions of people through television and the Internet. 

After 19 hours of flight, the Crew Dragon capsule successfully docked automatically to the International Space Station, so that on Sunday, May 31, at around 10:30, local time, millions of viewers saw Behnken and Hurley floating down the hatch to the ISS, where they were greeted by resident astronauts led by American Chris Cassidy. 

Reusable rocket 

A few minutes after launch, the astronauts were already emerging from the upper atmosphere into space. Then, phases of the Falcon 9 rocket began to separate and the first of them, the main booster, successfully landed on a SpaceX unmanned craft, since the rocket is reusable.

The relevance of the mission is that the partnership between NASA and SpaceX could mark the end of the US space agency’s reliance on Russian Soyuz space capsules to put its astronauts into orbit and, at the same time, motivate private companies in that country to implement systems that take astronauts and tourists to space. 

Meanwhile, NASA puts its best efforts to materialize the return to the Moon, the construction of the Space Station “Gateway” around the satellite, to establish a permanent colony and prepare a manned trip to Mars. 

It is the first time that a private company, with its own technological development and designs, has transported two astronauts into space, which marks the beginning of a new era in which private companies will compete or complement each other with the world’s main space agencies to go out to the cosmos, explore and seek new horizons. 

The Crew Dragon capsule made by SpaceX has an eye-catching design. It has room for a maximum of seven passengers and touchscreens, like those of cell phones and tablets, which replace the old lever and button systems. 

“This is the begining” 

“We designed it with the idea that it would be amazing and look beautiful,” said mission director Benji Reed about the Crew Dragon capsule. 

After the launch, and while the astronauts flew towards the ISS, those responsible for the mission offered a press conference call. 

NASA Administrator Jim Brindestine was very pleased with the successful takeoff, although he remarked that this is not over, it is only the beginning. 

“Let me be clear, the mission is not over yet, this is a test flight, so this is the beginning. So far, everything has turned out very, very well and we are thrilled that Bob and Doug, our American heroes, are safely in orbit and on their way to the International Space Station,” he stated. 

“I think the business model has proven to be very successful. We are reducing costs, we are increasing access and that will continue to happen, as we get more partners and, of course, as SpaceX and others (developers of technologies for space exploration) have more customers,” he added. 

Eighteen years waiting 

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, the CEO of the private company SpaceX, had some difficulty to find the words and make up sentences due to the prior emotions. 

“I am very excited and it is difficult for me to speak. I have been working towards this goal for 18 years, so it is difficult to assimilate that it has already happened. But there is a lot of work to do,” he commented. 

“Hopefully, this is the first step on a journey to (establish) a civilization on Mars, because life can be multiplanetary, based on the Moon, for the first time in Earth’s 4.5 billion years of history,” he added. 

The mogul, who also owns electric car maker Tesla, also said that “it will take a tremendous amount of innovation and technological development to make going out of orbit a routine thing, in which thousands or, hopefully, millions of people can travel to other planets.” 

A space landmark

The president of the Chilean Space Association, Héctor Gutiérrez Méndez, was one of the thousands of interested parties who followed the launch with expectation. 

“This is a case worth analyzing. For almost 10 years, the United States depended on Russia for all kinds of transportation to the International Space Station. Normally, an American, a Japanese and a Russian traveled in the Soyuz space capsule, for example. Now there are two Americans,” he stated. 

“A few months ago, the United States created a Space Force. So this is an indication, a sign, that this country wants to regain its technological independence and sovereignty to have its own means in space exploration,” he added. 

Along the same lines, the Chilean pilot, aerospace engineer and astronaut candidate Klaus Von Storch remarked that the partnership between NASA and SpaceX began years ago, but until now the private firm had only carried out logistical transport. 

“It is a tremendous milestone that was achieved when NASA had budget cuts and saw that the participation of private companies could serve to address the costs issue,” he explained. 

“With this, an opportunity has been opened not only for NASA, but for the rest of the world, so that space tourism can develop in a better way, in addition to the development of medicines and a myriad of activities that take place in space,” added Von Storch, who also stressed that the mission brings with it a change in the design of spacesuits and monitoring systems, which have state-of-the-art technology. 

Astronauts Behnken and Hurley will return to Earth aboard the Crew Dragon capsule on August 2.