History was made this past Saturday, May 30, 2020. SpaceX and NASA successfully achieved lift-off with the privately-manufactured Falcon 9 Rocket. For the first time, a rocket successfully launched a Crew Dragon Spacecraft with two NASA astronauts on board. This was a historic achievement for two reasons. One: it is the first time a privately-owned company has launched NASA astronauts into space. Two: it was the first crewed launch since the United States space program was shut down back in 2011. Here’s everything that happened Saturday at the SpaceX Launch.
Elon Musk, legendary flame-throwing billionaire and recent father of baby X Æ A-12, was reportedly “overcome with emotion” as the Falcon 9 Rocket successfully made its way into space. The partially reusable launch vehicle was designed and manufactured by Musk’s company, SpaceX. The Falcon 9 has reportedly been under production for the last 18 years, and cost $62 million to launch. The good news is that the rocket can be re-launched for $50 million — a steal!
The Falcon 9 is just the carrier. The Crew Dragon is the actual spacecraft that the two NASA astronauts rode beyond the Earth’s orbit. This reusable space vessel is rated for up to seven astronauts, although only two were inside during Saturday’s test launch. The defining feature of the Crew Dragon is its ability to dock itself to the International Space Station — previous versions were only able to attach by berthing from the ISS. Berthing requires astronauts aboard the ISS to manually bring in a space vessel using a robotic arm.
Saturday’s launch introduced America to Bob and Doug. The best friend duo of NASA astronauts also known as Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley comprised the sole crew of the Crew Dragon flight. Doug (known as “Chunks” by his Marine Corps buddies) is a civil engineer, former USMC test/fighter pilot and current NASA astronaut. He’s also a veteran of two previous spaceflights. Bob is a former USAF colonel who once served as NASA’s Chief of Astronauts. Bob’s qualifications also include a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, 708 hours of time in space, and marriage to fellow astronaut K. Megan McArthur. Bob and Doug live-streamed from space after Saturday’s successful mission.
Originally scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, the SpaceX launch was forced to reschedule due to thunderstorms and a tornado warning. The launch took place at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center’s iconic Launch Complex 39A, which was the location for the history-making Apollo 11 moon landing mission. More than 150,000 Floridians braved the pandemic to watch the launch in person. SpaceX and NASA partnered to host a live webcast and the launch was also covered by many news providers across the country.
The Crew Dragon successfully docked in the ISS, and Bob and Doug will remain there for 6-to-16 weeks before returning to earth. The vessel is designed to land via an ocean splashdown, and the two astronauts will be picked up at sea. As a new era of space exploration begins, NASA and SpaceX plan to pick up the pace with plans to return to the moon and land humans on Mars by 2024.