NASA has signed a deal with SpaceX to have the California-based, Elon Musk-owned space company send its future astronauts to the International Space Station.
NASA is already adapting the launch center at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida so that it’s ready for SpaceX’s equipment:
This is the first time that SpaceX will ever take astronauts to the International Space Station, and is the second deal NASA has made with an American company to do so. The first was with Boeing, which was signed in May of this year. Astronauts will be brought to the International Space Station with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecrafts.
While NASA has been depending on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for many of its deliveries of astronauts to the International Space Station, having a United States-based company making its own rockets capable of sending astronauts into space will be a big game-changer for NASA, as well as mankind.
The first launch inside of one of SpaceX’s spacecrafts will happen some time in 2017, which is still a bit of time from now, but with American-owned companies now producing spacecraft for taking astronauts to space, this means that we can be less dependent on other nations to get us where we need to be.
"It’s really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions," said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. "It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from U.S. companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan."
Despite some unfortunately unsuccessful launches from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets in the past, NASA notes that SpaceX has passed critical design review and “demonstrated the transportation system has reached a sufficient level of design maturity to work toward fabrication, assembly, integration and test activities.”
Hopefully things go off without a hitch when American astronauts are strapped into the seats of one of SpaceX’s rockets. It goes without saying that the precious cargo of human lives is far more valuable than easily-replaced supplies that have recently failed to get where they had intended to go.
Nonetheless, NASA’s excitement to move forward with such endeavors paves a way for a new future in space exploration and experiments.