• Shreya Rathi

Now that SpaceX has reached International Space Station, what’s next?

On May 31, 10:46 p.m. (IST), SpaceX capsule, Dragon became the first of a kind, by docking itself to the International Space Station automatically! Dragon, now renamed as Endeavour, was launched from the Kennedy Space Center and took a long 19-hour cruise before it could dock to the ISS over the border between China and Mongolia.

When the station was around 65 feet far from the capsule, the astronauts on board, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley took manual control of the Endeavour (JUST IN CASE...). But thanks to the engineers, it didn't come to that. This, Demo-2 mission of SpaceX will be declared as a one hundred percent success, only once the astronauts land back on earth safely ALONG WITH the capsule working in good condition: suitable for the next trip. But let’s be optimistic and say - it happens!! Then what? What is the next step going to look like?

With NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX is preparing for its next mission: Crew-1. This mission which is targeted for late August 2020 is supposed to take four astronauts to the Space Station and back, in its Endeavour capsule. This will be the first of the scheduled SIX crew rotation missions. All of these are subsequently going to pave the way for future lunar exploration.

NASA with its Artemis Program is eager to put ‘Boots on the Moon’ by 2024 and anyhow begin a continuous crewed mission to the lunar surface, at the earliest. As of now, NASA plans to use the government-funded, Space Launch System rockets to return to the moon (these have been under development for a long time now - since 2011). Those vehicles were supposed to launch in 2017, but due to being billions of dollar over budget - is not expected to launch until late 2021.

Regardless of this, NASA shares their plan to touchdown moon. To do that they are willing to partner with any company that can take them there faster. The most expectations they have right now are from SpaceX and Blue Origin. Blue Origin Company, owned by Jeff Bezos has developed a flexible lander called Blue Moon that can deliver, deploy, and host payloads on the lunar surface. Once this becomes successful, it is supposed to carry the first woman and the next man to the moon. “This time to stay”, says the owner Jeff Bezos.

NASA’s Chief Financial Officer, Jeff DeWit thinks that the chances of SpaceX to reach the moon are thin. Though NASA is skeptical about SpaceX’s ability for a lunar mission, Elon Musk sure isn’t! The latter replies that it is might be easier for them to just land on the moon than to convince NASA that they can! For these exploration missions, SpaceX is developing its famous Starship System.

The SpaceX Starship is supposed to be a fully reusable super heavy-lift launch vehicle.

What's cool about Starship is that it has been designed in such a way that it can make Interplanetary Transport (Currently focussing on Mars and back) also possible. It is supposed to deliver satellites at a much lower cost than Falcon-9 rocket and it can transport goods and people to and fro from International Space Station! If everything goes as planned, SpaceX has announced Yusaku Maezawa as the first private passenger to fly around the moon in 2023! Maezawau MaezawaYusaku Maezawa

Though the Starship System has been facing some hurdles: repeatedly seen blowing off, if in the coming years it successfully completes this race, then it can take us safely to the Mars (and maybe beyond)!!

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