Last week Elon Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX achieved an important milestone when its spaceship, called Crew Dragon, successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) that orbits the Earth.
The spaceship carried 450 pounds of cargo and a dummy astronaut, Ripley, named after the lead character in the science-fiction movie, ‘Aliens’. Ripley is equipped with sensors, meant to assess and record everything a human astronaut would experience throughout the mission.
The seven-seat vehicle flew independently and linked up on its own, without the help of the robotic arm generally used to guide a spacecraft into position.
Since the space shuttle Endeavour’s final launch in 2011, NASA has only used Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to carry astronauts and supplies into orbit. This event marks the first time since 2011 that the space agency conducted an ISS-bound mission using rockets produced in the United States of America. It is also a first for a spacecraft built by a commercial company through a public-private partnership to be sent to space.
Crew Dragon capsule unlatched from the International Space Station today to begin its slow descent back to Earth, capping off its historic first test flight. If it continues to surpass expectations for this mission, SpaceX and NASA could be sending astronauts into space as early as July 2019. SpaceX also plans to use these vehicles to offer space rides to tourists in the future.
Next up, Boeing is also looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August. NASA is paying the two private companies $8 billion to build and operate these spaceships for ferrying astronauts to and fro in space.
Written by: Chandni Shah. Chandni is a picture book collector, an educator and founder of Simplifly, a learning venture for children.