Elon Musk, with an assist from NASA, opened up space for private business Saturday when two veteran astronauts shot off in orbit on the first-ever manned commercial space flight.
The historic Demo-2 mission was scrubbed Wednesday because of bad weather but went off without a hitch Saturday afternoon.
Both Musk, the co-founder of electric auto maker Tesla, and President Donald Trump gathered at Cape Canaveral to watch a rocket called Falcon 9 blast off veteran NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken in SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
It was the first manned spaceflight from U.S. soil since 2011 and the first-ever crewed flight for SpaceX. It came one day after SpaceX’s Starship N4 prototype, a new spacecraft Musk has been developing, blew up on its test stand in Boca Chica, Texas.
Musk launched SpaceX in 2002 to provide more cheaper space travel and to realize his long-held dream of someday sending humans to Mars and living there.
“This is the most hands-off NASA has ever been and it’s been difficult for them to step back,” Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the Post. “But a lot is riding on the privatization of the space program.”
Musk’s success means that NASA won’t have to concern itself with mundane lower space orbit travel and can focus on “gearing up for another trip to the moon and beyond,” McDowell said.
Musk’s brand was everywhere at Cape Canaveral Saturday, not just on his Crew Dragon capsule.
Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49 were driven to the famous Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in a Tesla, showing off Bond-esque black and white spacesuits that were years in the making.
Jose Fernandez, a Hollywood costume designer who worked on “Batman v. Superman,” “The Avengers” and X-Men sequel “X2,” created the prototype for the suits. He told Bleep magazine in 2016 that Musk “kept saying, ‘Anyone looks better in a tux, no matter what size or shape they are.”
Musk dropped clues that the suit might have been inspired by the Halo and Mass Effect video games. (In contrast, Neil Armstrong’s space suit was made by a bra manufacturer.)
In 2014, NASA picked SpaceX as one of two companies (Boeing is the other) to fly astronaut taxi missions to the space station. Crew Dragon is a manned version of SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon spacecraft, an unpiloted vehicle that’s made resupply flights to the ISS since 2012.
The Demo-2 mission marks the first time a private company has launched humans into space. Until now it’s been the province of governments in the U.S., China and Russia. The SpaceX project is also key to Trump’s promise to return astronauts to the moon by 2024.
The astronauts have been outspoken about how much they love the sleek new space vehicle.
“It’s something we maybe dreamed about when we were new [astronaut candidates] — flying something other than the space shuttle,” Behnken said. “It did not seem likely at the time when we arrived at the astronaut office … so I think we’re living the dream.”
The SpaceX mission also finally frees up what has been NASA’s dependence on Russian rockets as its sole means of getting to the space station since the shuttle program ended in 2011.
Source: Read Full Article