A Dragon to Space, A Falcon Returns

Credit%3A+SpaceX

Credit: SpaceX

Chiara P., Editor-in-Chief

Space innovation has leapt into a new era, both to the excitement of its engineers and enthusiasts. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, teams had to tackle the challenge of continuing research and preparation from distanced measures. The worldwide pandemic was only another obstacle in a much longer journey of obstacles for space workers. After a decade of research, technology development, cooperation and planning, NASA, in partnership with SpaceX, successfully launched the Dragon Capsule on May 30th, 2020. The highly anticipated mission took off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Coral, Florida. 

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley

Although taking off from US soil, the project was a collaboration between a worldwide network of scientists. 19 nations cooperated in the testing, technology, and activity needed to manage a triumphant mission. The global effort must be recognized. However, for America, the success of the mission marks a multitude of historical firsts. Space X’s partnership with NASA marks the first commercial craft orbit in the history of America. Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are the first Americans to reach the International Space Station since the 2011 retirement of the space shuttle program. In addition, the rocket Falcon 9 is the first reusable rocket, marking an enormous feat in space technology. 

 

Space X’s engineering team has created a rocket that returns to Earth by vertically landing after expelling the capsule. This means it can be reused for other launches, which saves time, resources, and is ultimately more cost effective. On the matter of expenses, NASA’s budget for this fiscal year is 22.6 billion, a 5.3 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. SpaceX’ s valuation is also rapidly surging. Through reusability, the company is seeking to reduce its costs in building further spaceships and crafts. According to Forbes’ estimates, SpaceX “could top 32 billion next year” and is “likely to launch about 15 missions this year”. Now, SpaceX has proved that it can build rockets that push performance levels on the world stage and will pave the way for Musk’s vision of multiplanetary travel at low cost. These long term visions are what Musk boldly claims protect “the light of consciousness”. 

SpaceX is now looking to develop Starship, “representing a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit”, in the website’s description. The first lunar private passanger mission is scheduled for 2023, with Yusaku Maezawa, Japanese global arts curator and billionaire, on board for the #dearmoon initiative.

Credit: SpaceX Starship

These views of the future of space can only take place with the present short-term successes and research. Doug and Bob, at the ISS now, are working on installing project Bartholemew, a hardware platform that will be used for additional scientific experimentation globally. The platform was created by teams at the European Space Agency and AirBus. After the excitement of the launch, the next chapter of work begins with the research capabilities preceded by feats such as the Cold Atom Laboratory. Platforms like Bartholemew will hopefully allow for greater experimentation and innovation. As we confine to close quarters in the days of quarantine, let us ponder the astronauts confined in the ISS amongst the stars. What looks so far away may be closer to home.