NASA launches astronauts on ISS on reused SpaceX rocket

But that wasn’t the original plan, says Garrett Reisman, a former NASA astronaut who handled commercial crew contracts at SpaceX from 2015 to 2018. “When I wrote that original contract, we wrote in it that every time we launched NASA astronauts, you would have a brand new spanked rocket and a brand new spanked spaceship, ”he says. This model has changed because the Falcon 9 and the Crew Dragon capsule have performed well in recent years. “What’s surprising is not that we do it [reusing rockets]is that we are doing it as fast as we are doing it, ”says Reisman, who is now a professor of astronautical engineering at the University of Southern California and technical consultant for the alternative space history series AppleTV For all mankind.

With 11 people inside, ISS astronauts will need to find new sleeping arrangements and adjust the station’s life support systems, such as the oxygen supply. These systems will be tested by the additional passengers, but will not be endangered, NASA officials said at a pre-flight press conference earlier this week.

“It’s going to put a real stress test on our life support systems, but it’s by design,” admits NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock, who spoke to WIRED before the launch of the flight plans. Wheelock, who is now training astronauts for future lunar landings, says the additional bodies will also give NASA more information about its systems and how they work with a full room. This kind of information could even help design future outposts on the Moon or Mars. “We have CO2 scrubbers on board that will work overtime when there are 11 people on board,” he says. “So that gives us excellent data points, with almost peak capacity of our life support systems, so we don’t lose the opportunity to collect data on our technology.” And he points out that sometimes things need to be sorted out in space: He fixed a broken cooling system during his space mission in 2010.

He also remembers how ISS residents feel when a new crew arrives on the space station. “It’s busy, and the people who are just coming from the planet are a little more clumsy than those who have been around for several months,” says Wheelock. “You can always tell who the newbies are on day one. So they throw things on the wall and things like that.

Returning humans to the moon can happen from 2024, at least according to recent comments from former Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who flew on the space shuttle in 1986 and is now President Joe Biden’s candidate to become the next space agency administrator. In addition to being the third commercial crew launch for SpaceX in the past year, NASA has awarded the company a $ 2.9 billion contract last week for the human landing system to send a crew to the moon and bring them back safely. This mission will use SpaceX Spaceship, which is still being tested with the Falcon Heavy rocket.

NASA’s award of the large lunar landing contract, combined with today’s successful launch “makes it clear that SpaceX has become a central player in human spaceflight,” says John Logsdon, professor emeritus at George Washington University Space Policy Institute. “It’s quite remarkable because they are newcomers on the scene and are taking the leadership from Boeing.”

Boeing is developing its own space vehicles, known as the Starliner Crew Capsule and the Space Launch System (SLS) Rocket, both of which are overdue and way over budget. SpaceX also beat Blue origin, the commercial space company run by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, for the contract with NASA. A spokesperson for Blue Origin in Seattle declined to comment on the company’s lunar spaceflight plans, though the company plans to send tourists, researchers and possibly astronauts in formation to Earth orbit later this year. year.

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