To the ISS and Beyond!
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, July 20, 1969. When Shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth, 42 years later, on July 21, 2011, that was the end of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Space Shuttle Program. Our astronauts and supplies for the International Space Station no longer had transportation from the United States. We’ve been getting there on another country’s spacecraft since then. The “taxi fare” is huge.
Now, the prospect of us getting “wheels” for our space explorers again is looking better than ever. The U. S. commercially made and controlled by SpaceX, Crew Dragon spacecraft, riding its Falcon 9 rocket, launched successfully from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida early on the morning of Saturday, March 2.
After 18 orbits around Earth, she docked with the ISS the following Sunday morning. Supplies and equipment, more than 400 pounds, were delivered. Ripley, the lone passenger, a nonhuman tester outfitted with sensors, will be reporting how the trip “feels.” The Crew Dragon will undock and come home this Friday. After splashdown, she’ll be retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean by SpaceX’s ship, Go Searcher.
With a “thumbs-up” from Ripley’s sensors, and a full check and validation of Crew Dragon’s systems by NASA, two astronauts will catch the next SpaceX express to the ISS scheduled for this July.
NASA is also collaborating with Boeing on its CST-Starliner spacecraft which will be propelled into space on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket this April. The first excursion, the Orbital Flight Test, will not carry humans. A crew test is planned for August.
How exciting it will be to have our own vehicles to the stars again. Hopefully, before I shuffle off this mortal coil, there will be civilian flights, and I can travel to see those diamonds that sparkle in our sky in their neighborhood.
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Story possibilities abound when you try to wrap your mind around the vastness of the universe. What do you think happens out there? What kind of sentient life is out there? Are they studying Earth and us to become an ally or a foe? Who knows? You do.