National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) has certified SpaceX to fly astronauts on its Crew Dragon spacecraft called Crew-1 just days before its launch on November 15. The decision was taken by NASA officials who spent two days reviewing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket which will launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit. The review included all the mission operations and software which will be used to launch the first human-rated commercial spacecraft carrying four astronauts — Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Sochi Noguchi.
The launch will be live-streamed by NASA and SpaceX at 5:49 AM IST on November 15. The historic lift-off will take place at Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral. If all goes well, they will dock at the International Space Station eight and a half hours later.
Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon vertical on Launch Complex 39A pic.twitter.com/hBVUHWv3Ab
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 10, 2020
The four astronauts will stay at the International Space Station for six months. When it will be time to come back, they will board the spacecraft again, go through the Earth’s atmosphere marking a fiery return until they land somewhere in the Atlantic ocean after opening up the parachutes. This will mark the longest human spaceflight in the history of the United States.
NASA’s Anthony Vareha, the lead flight director for the mission explained why this mission holds so much importance as he said, “It’s exciting, especially with Crew-1 being the first time we’ve ever put four people on a space capsule ever, as humans, like that’s pretty cool… It’s also the longest mission of a crewed US capsule ever.”
BREAKING: @NASA and @SpaceX have completed certification of #CrewDragon! I’m extremely proud to say we are returning regular human spaceflight launches to American soil on an American rocket and spacecraft. More: https://t.co/VGPPAtSll3 #LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/jUZx0BBPwb
— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) November 10, 2020
“People think it’s just a spacecraft, but it’s a spacecraft, it’s a launch vehicle, it’s processing all over the land, that’s how you do your mission. All of this will allow our crew to safely fly to the International Space Station and come back and then recover, “Kathy Lloyders, head of NASA’s manned space flight program, said in a press briefing on November 10. “You’ve shown us the data, and we trust you to do it. That’s a big confidence factor here.”
However, this will not be SpaceX’s first human mission. In 2019, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley achieved a similar feat when they boarded the Crew Dragon, docked at the International Space Station for two months and then took off to Earth landing in the Atlantic Ocean off Florida Coast with the help of four parachutes.
The NASA certification also holds importance as it is the first time they have allowed a human-flight system in nearly 40 years since the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program. This will also be the first of six round-trip missions for which Elon Musk’s SpaceX has contracted with NASA.
“Thanks to NASA for its continued support of SpaceX and its partnership in achieving this goal,” Musk said in a press release. “I can’t be more proud of each and every one of our SpaceX suppliers who worked incredibly hard to develop, test and fly the first commercial manned space system in history to be certified by NASA. It is a great honor to be inspired by faith. Our efforts will help humanity return to the moon, travel to Mars and eventually become a multi-planet. ”
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