The Future of Space Travel
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Have you ever looked up at the stars and wondered, “What’s out there?” Well, we are about to find out as we enter a new era of space travel.
The last time an American spacecraft carrying a crew launched was on July 8th, 2011 aboard the orbiter Atlantis. Since then the United States has been relying on the Russian spacecraft Soyuz to take US crew to and from the International Space Station, the ISS for short.
However, NASA is now shifting over from buying tickets on the Soyuz to hiring US companies like Space X and Boeing to bring their supplies and astronauts up to the stars.
A Little History On The ISS
The ISS was launched in 1998 and it became the most ambitious international collaboration ever attempted as well as the largest space station ever constructed. Eighteen different countries, and counting, have visited the station.
They include Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States, France, Russia, Canada, Japan, Sweden, and many more.
The ISS is massive, having a pressurized volume of 32,333 cubic feet! Because of its great size the whole ISS could not simply be brought up by a rocket. You may be wondering, “How in the world did we launch the ISS into space then?” Well just like a puzzle the ISS came up in many many pieces that had to be fitted together, all while still orbiting the earth at 4.76 miles per second! There have been at least 33 different parts brought up and fitted together to make the space station. With all its pieces put together, the ISS cost around 150 billion dollars and weighed about 925,300 pounds, or over 450 tons!
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
According to NASA the Commercial Crew Program has worked with several American aerospace industry companies to promote the development of U.S. human spaceflight systems since 2010.
The goal of this program is to find a reliable, safe, and cost-effective process that can get U.S. crew to and from the International Space Station as well as a few other destinations.
The two main competitors for the NASA contract are SpaceX and Boeing.
SpaceX has their rocket the Falcon 9 and their crew capsule Dragon. Boeing, on the other hand, is using the Atlas V rocket and their crew capsule Starliner.
The SpaceX Launch
On Saturday, May 30 at 3:22 p.m. EDT, SpaceX successfully launched Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley into space aboard the Falcon 9 rocket. This was a historic event since after all, the US had not put any astronauts in space since 2011. Because of SpaceX, the US is back in the space game!
Not only has this launch made history, but Crew Dragon was also launched off of a historic launch pad, the Kennedy Space Center launch pad 39A in Cape Canaveral Florida.
For those who are not space nerds like me, launch pad 39A is the same place that the Apollo 11 mission launched from. This was the mission that first brought Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to land on the moon. Now those are some big shoes to fill!
One of the big problems with making and launching rockets is their cost. The Apollo 11 mission cost about 152 billion dollars! Now that’s a lot of cash! To combat this SpaceX has engineered reusable rockets that can land back on Earth after being launched. This is revolutionary and will change space flight forever.
We are in an exciting new world where the only limits are our own imaginations. Who knows what we will accomplish next! This is history in the making and has the next generation asking themselves the question, “Could I be next?”.