Nearly nine years have passed since NASA ceased operations on the Space Shuttle Program back in 2011 to divert their resources to other aspects of space exploration. No crewed space flights were launched, that is until the 30th of May 2020, a day of celebration amidst the raging pandemic.
Thanks to SpaceX, a new crewed flight was arranged under the project name Demo-2. Using the Crew Dragon craft, carried by the Falcon 9 rocket, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will leave behind earth for a while and are expected to return home by August this year.
The much-awaited launch was initially scheduled to commence on the 27th of May, the craft was ready for departure on pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, but was postponed due to negative weather conditions. Regardless, its success symbolized a big win for the future of American space exploration. What made the mission even more remarkable was that it was SpaceX’s first test flight with passengers, making it the first victorious flight by an American private company.
The launch was streamed live to the world, and everyone watched as the two-man crew ended the nine-year inactivity on space flight. Prior to blast off, Hurley exclaimed the iconic words of Alan Shepard during the very first flight to space back in 1961. “Let’s light this candle!” The following day, Crew Dragon safely arrived at the International Space Station.
During their stay in the ISS, Behnken and Hurley will join the Expedition 63 Crew. Then they will be running tests on the Crew Dragon and perform research on the space craft. Both astronauts will be performing their delegated tasks which include maintenance checks on the ISS and a few spacewalks. For an allotted time of 30 to 119 days, the Dragon will be subjected to assessment tests and other investigatory studies to examine its performance and capacity.
The success of this mission has opened a vast window of opportunities for NASA and SpaceX to further develop space studies. This breakthrough is one of utmost importance to astronomical research, signifying a fresh start for human space flight. It is expected that not long after Dragon’s return, a new operation will begin as soon as the data gathered is analyzed and the necessary adjustments are made.