We have our hopes beforehand.
NASA’s success Apollo moon mission half a century ago, for example, made Mars seem very affordable to human explorers. Indeed, the space agency composes plans to place boots on the Red Planet in the early 1980s, but the shifting political and social winds killed the idea in the cradle.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush announced Space Exploration Initiative, which aims to send astronauts back to the moon in the late 1990s and bring people to Mars in the 2010s. His son, President George W. Bush, also aims for the return of the crew month, with a program called Constellation, whose contours were outlined in 2004. Each program was immediately moved by the next government to power.
Full coverage: The historic launch of the SpaceX Demo-2 astronaut explained
So it’s natural for space fans to welcome the big announcements that are held by Launch of the first crew of SpaceX on Saturday (May 30) with a little skepticism. Yes, the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS), the first human orbital spacecraft to depart from American soil since NASA retired from the shuttle fleet in 2011, is a big problem. But does it really show that “the commercial space industry is the future,” as President Donald Trump said shortly after takeoff?
Actually, it might be very good.
Demo-2 far from once, after all. This is a flight test designed to fully validate the Crew Dragon SpaceX capsules and Falcon 9 rocket for crew missions to the ISS. The company holds a NASA contract worth $ 2.6 billion to conduct six operational flights, the first of which is targeted for the end of August, provided the Demo-2 goes well.
SpaceX is a very ambitious company that has achieved many things at its final frontier; it has been flying robotic cargo flights to ISS for NASA since 2012, for example. So, there is little reason to doubt SpaceX’s ability to fulfill that contract, and to carry out various other missions in Earth’s orbit as well.
The Elon Musk company has actually signed the Dragon Crew agreement with other customers. For example, a Houston-based company, Axiom Space, which aims to build commercial space stations in Earth orbit booked Crew Dragon flights to ISS, with launch targeted at the end of 2021. And space tourism clothing Space Adventures plans to use capsules around the same time, to transport passengers on a mission to high Earth orbit, far above ISS.
Then there is Boeing. Like SpaceX, Boeing signed a contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly six crew missions to and from ISS. Boeing will fulfill the agreement with the so-called capsule CST-100 Starliner, which has made one unauthorized trip to orbit to date.
The flight, which was launched last December, not go according to plan; Starliner was supposed to meet with ISS but suffered an error with the onboard time system and was trapped in the wrong orbit. But Boeing plans to do it refly the ISS mission uncrewed later this year and put astronauts on the Starliner soon after, as long as everything goes well.
Activity also heats up in the suborbital realm.
For example, Richard Branson Virgin Galactic has flown two piloted missions to the suborbital space with its newest SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity. The company is in the final phase of its testing campaign and seems ready to start bringing space tourists up to Unity six passengers soon.
And Blue Origin, the space company run by Jeff Bezos from Amazon, has repeatedly reached space with its suborbital vehicle, known as New Shepard. Until now, the flight trials have failed, but it might not be long before New Shepard starts bringing customers in too.
The names on this list are getting away from skepticism. We are not talking about startups that lack money here; Bezos is the richest man in the world, and Musk and Branson are both billionaires. And Boeing is an aerospace giant with a long history of achievements in the human space field. The company is the main contractor for ISS, for example, and is building the very first phase of NASA Saturn V rocket, which launched the Apollo moon mission.
So there is real reason to hope that a new era of exciting human space has arrived – maybe one that will even see people driving private spacecraft to the moon, Mars and other destinations in space.
Musk has long stressed that he founded SpaceX back in 2002 primarily to help humanity colonize the Red Planet, and the company has built and tested prototypes from Starship, a vehicle designed to make it happen. And Bezos has repeatedly said that his broad vision for Blue Origin involves helping millions of people who live and work in space.
The impending private boom did not boot NASA from the human space block, of course. The space agency has its own inner ambitions. His Artemis program aims to land two astronauts near the moon’s south pole in 2024 and establish a long-term human presence on and around the moon in 2028.
And the moon will be a stepping stone, if everything goes according to NASA’s plan, teaching the institute the skills and techniques needed to place boots on Mars.
NASA wants to make that giant leap in the 2030s. We will see whether the political will and funds last long enough for the agency to do it.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]