NASA gave the go-ahead on Friday for next week’s launch of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX ship – the first manned space flight from American soil in nine years and a crucial step towards ending American dependence on Russian rockets. The top officials of the American space agency and Elon Musk’s company had met since Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the final checks of the Crew Dragon space capsule before his first manned mission on May 27.
“In the end we made an attempt” NASA CEO Jim Bridenstine told reporters the video of the meticulous Flight Readiness Review, which provided the go-ahead.
U.S. astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are programmed to jump out of Kennedy’s historic Launch Pad 39A at 2:03 am IST on Thursday for the International Space Station, arriving the next day.
Asked to move forward with the mission in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Behnken told reporters, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”
Behnken and Hurley have been under severe quarantine since May 13 due to the pandemic, but have claimed that their effective isolation began as early as mid-March.
“We’ve been in quarantine probably longer than any other space crew has ever been in the history of the space program,” said Hurley.
He said that he and Behnken have been tested twice so far COVID-19 and “it is said that we could be tested again before we go”.
American astronauts flew to the ISS, which currently houses two Russians and one American, on Russian missiles since the U.S. space shuttle program was closed in 2011 after three decades of service.
If the SpaceX mission were successful, the U.S. would have achieved its goal of no longer having to buy seats on Russian Soyuz rockets to send astronauts to the ISS, which has been occupied by U.S. and Russian astronauts since 2000.
NASA has awarded contracts worth $ 3.1 billion (roughly Rs 23,552) to SpaceX and $ 4.9 billion (roughly Rs 37,228) to Boeing in an attempt to give the United States independent access to the United States again. space.
The original target for manned flights replacing the shuttle was 2015, a pause that the late Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, once described as “embarrassing”.
Behnken and Hurley trained for five years on the Crew Dragon capsule, which features touchscreens as opposed to the switches and buttons of the 1960s Apollo capsules.
Unlike the space shuttle – which suffered two fatal accidents – the SpaceX capsule includes an emergency escape system in case of problems after take-off.
At the end of the mission, which should last several months, Crew Dragon will dive into the ocean as did the Apollo capsules, slowed down by four huge parachutes.
SpaceX and Boeing are called to make six crewed trips each to the ISS in the coming years.
If next week’s Crew Dragon mission – christened Demo-2 – is successful, SpaceX will be the first private company to deliver astronauts to the ISS.
Demo-1 was a flight successfully conducted in March 2019 with a manikin on board.
Boeing conducted an unmanned test flight of its capsule, known as Starliner, in December, but suffered from various problems.
US-Russia cooperation should not end once Crew Dragon enters service. NASA plans to use Soyuz rockets to send some of them astronauts in the space.
SpaceX will also provide flights for non-American astronauts and Musk by the company finally wants to send tourists into space.
A three-passenger private mission is slated for the second half of 2021 with tickets scheduled for tens of millions of dollars.