In the 1960s, the world was in a great Space Race between countries to explore outer space with the ultimate goal of putting a man on the moon. The next decades of competition created national space agencies to develop satellites, spacecraft, and technologies to test the possibilities of man’s ability to survive in the many unknowns of space.
Successes were made.
Mile by mile, dedicated people engineered ways to edge farther out from earth with artificial satellites orbiting natural celestial objects. Then, humans dared to occupy these spacecraft.
Powerful rocket launchers hurled multi-person crews into the gravity-challenged areas above earth, docked vehicles together in space, orbited, landed, walked on the moon, and returned back to earth.
Did You Know?
In 1985, a collaboration of nations, including Russia, USA, Japan, Europe, and Canada built the International Space Station (ISS), more than 200 miles above the earth.
Each country has its own laboratory area. Since completion, the ISS has been a continuously inhabited modular space station where men and women come and go, live and work. Transportation to and from the ISS was provided by a Russian space shuttle.
Beginning of a New Era
On Saturday, May 30, 2020. The Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA, launched its first manned spacecraft since 2011.
Sunday, May 31, 2020. NASA astronauts, Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken, veteran space travelers, docked the Crew Dragon and entered the ISS. They were welcomed by the 3-person crew currently on the space station.
Sunday, August 2, 2020: The Crew Dragon had a safe successful return to Earth. ‘Splash down’ was in the Gulf of Mexico (body of water on the SE edge of the North American continent and connected to the Atlantic Ocean).
But, there were two history-making differences about this journey to the ISS:
- For the first time, astronauts were not transported by a Russian shuttle.
- NASA did not design or build the spacecraft or the rocket launcher.
A New Era of Space Flight
Elon Musk, an entrepreneur, automaker, and founder of a private, commercial space travel agency called SpaceX pioneered the development of the Crew Dragon capsule and the reusable Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX collaborated successfully with NASA to take astronauts to the ISS.
This begins the new way that the US is launching spacecraft with private corporations. And Musk is not the only one in the spaceflight business today. SpaceX is one of three major North American spaceflight companies engaging in ‘out of this world’ commercial endeavors.
The Race Is On Again
Elon Musk’s dream, happening in ‘real time’, is to provide cheap and reusable rockets and vehicles for space exploration. Also, to continue in efforts begun in 2002 to study the possibility of people living on Mars.
Amazon internet founder, Jeff Bezos, privately funds Blue Origin space travel that manufactures and provides space flight services. Blue Origin was founded in 2004 and is developing technology to enable private trips into space. His New Shepherd is a suborbital space rocket that includes a crew capsule for future paying customers.
As of April, 2020, there have been 9,100 people signed up as ’interested’ in reserving a seat on British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic ‘spaceline’ SpaceShip Two, an extension of his ‘airline’ operations. This company is a pioneer in space tourism and has put its own space plane into outer space. Two pilots will be at the controls with a capacity of six passengers (paying $250,000 each for this novelty journey) .
A Ticket to Mars!
Hold on for the ride!
We’re definitely “not in Kansas anymore,” as Dorothy of Wizard of Oz says after the whirlwind scoops her up and puts her in a different place. But, these brilliant, innovative, and ‘well-funded’ space pioneers are developing the technologies that can lead to a “ticket to Mars.”