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SpaceX has successfully launched four astronauts into Earth’s orbit and carried them to the International Space Station in its most ambitious mission yet for NASA.
On Monday night, the company’s Crew Dragon spaceship maneuvered into position in front of the ISS, slowly inched forward, then gently bumped into an ISS port and locked itself in. After hours of locking procedures, leak checks, and hatch openings, astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker of NASA, as well as Soichi Noguchi of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, floated into the open arms of their colleagues on the ISS.
The mission, called Crew-1, is the first of six operational astronaut flights that NASA has contracted from SpaceX. Assuming the astronauts stay on the ISS for six months as planned, it will be the longest human spaceflight in US history.
The launch marked the first time the US has used its own human-rated launch system since the Space Shuttles retired in 2011. It was also the first time a commercial entity has accomplished such a feat. In the future, this new era of commercial spaceflight could expand to send astronauts to the moon and Mars, and even bring tourists to space.
“It’s not an exaggeration to state that, with this milestone, NASA and SpaceX have changed the historical arc of human space transportation,” Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial spaceflight development, told reporters. “I believe we are about to see a major expansion in our ability to work, play, and explore space.”
Photos and gifs captured the anticipation and joy of the 30-hour journey to the ISS.
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SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket catapulted the Crew Dragon spaceship, carrying four astronauts, into orbit on Sunday.
Before launch, the astronauts got dressed in their spacesuits and said goodbye to their families. They drove to the launchpad in specialized Teslas.
“The nerves start to really pile on as you get closer to launch,” Hopkins told reporters ahead of liftoff. The astronauts had been busy with pre-launch preparations since November 8.
They conducted a dress rehearsal the week prior to make sure everything would run smoothly.
Those preparations went according to plan, but then strong winds forced SpaceX and NASA to delay the launch from Saturday to Sunday.
The astronauts climbed to the top of the rocket and followed a walkway to the Crew Dragon capsule, which they named Resilience.
“It means functioning well in times of stress or overcoming adverse events,” Hopkins said of the moniker. “I think all of us can agree that 2020 has certainly been a challenging year. Despite all of that, SpaceX and NASA have kept the production line open and finished this amazing vehicle.”
The astronauts climbed inside the spaceship, then waited for hours as the hatch was sealed, the emergency-abort system was activated, and the rocket was filled with fuel.
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Source:: Businessinsider – Tech