Historic NASA/SpaceX Mission Could Pave the Way for Space Tourism by 2021
After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.
On Wednesday, a SpaceX rocket launch carrying NASA astronauts was postponed 16 minutes before liftoff due to weather concerns.
"We had simply too much electricity," said Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, to BBC. "There was a concern that if we did launch, it could actually trigger lightning."
They will try again at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 30 and on Sunday, May 31 should the former also get scrapped.
The joint-mission, Demo-2, will make history as the first-ever manned commercial space flight and will take place in SpaceX's spacecraft "Crew Dragon."
When the SpaceX shuttle launches its private spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, with NASA astronauts in tow, it will mark the beginning of commercialized space exploration. SpaceX
The endeavor is actually a groundbreaking public-private partnership between NASA and SpaceX, who both hope the collaboration will further open up the universe of space exploration, literally.
In 2011, NASA retired its aging space shuttle program. Since then, the U.S. hasn't launched its own astronauts into space, booking them tickets instead to train on and launch from Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, reported CNN.
When the Crew Dragon launches, it will mark the return of America's ability to launch its own astronauts into space.
"When we launch from America with a rocket built in America by an American company who's only been flying vehicles for the last decade or so, that is a success story straight out of the movies," said Douglas Hurley, one of the two NASA astronauts manning the mission, reported NBC News. "The Russians have been great partners, but it's important for the United States to have its own launch capabilities."
NASA hopes that its partnership with SpaceX will also usher in a new commercial marketplace for low-Earth orbit transportation.
NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will man the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station. NASA
Rather than finance a replacement for the Space Shuttle, NASA has created the Commercial Crew Program to outsource "safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation" of cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station (ISS) to the private sector. The underlying objective was to free up NASA's time and resources for deeper space exploration, reported CNN.
"NASA has an ability to be a customer in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit," Bridenstine told NBC News. The top NASA official also envisioned a future where that marketplace is "entirely commercialized," where NASA is "one customer of many customers," and where numerous providers continue to compete on cost, innovation and safety, reported BBC.
SpaceX senior advisor Garrett Reisman told Bloomberg that the "new venture" is a different model from what the space agency has used in the past. Private companies can now retain their intellectual property and own and operate the new technology, a huge upside for innovators.
"It's also the beginning of a whole new age, a whole golden age of commercial space flight," he continued, reported Bloomberg. "One of the things that is different is the fact that NASA doesn't own the Falcon 9 [rocket] and Dragon [spacecraft]; SpaceX does. So after this mission is over, we can use the same rocket, the same spacecraft to take ordinary citizens up into space. It's opening up all kinds of new possibilities."
The outsourcing has potentially saved taxpayers $20-30 billion dollars, Reisman estimated, reported Bloomberg. While seats on the Soyuz cost NASA up to $86 million each, Crew Dragon seats cost the agency roughly $55 million each for this mission, CNN found. According to CEO Elon Musk, filling all seven seats in the SpaceX capsule will lower costs to $20 million per astronaut, reported ABC News.
With the successful completion of this last test mission, which is also SpaceX's first flight with humans aboard ever, the company will have the green light to ferry crew to the ISS regularly starting in August or September, reported ABC News.
"This is a huge milestone for NASA, for the country, and for SpaceX, but there will be other milestones after this," Reisman told Bloomberg. He said it is "extremely realistic" that the Crew Dragon will be used to fly private citizens into space in 2021.
"This era of commercial space travel and space tourism is literally right around the corner," he added, reported Bloomberg.
Musk will continue to seek out potential new clients for his budding space transport business, perhaps space tourists looking for a quick getaway to the Moon or Mars, reported Bloomberg.
The news report also found that SpaceX's success has catalyzed the competition, with Boeing also gearing up to carry astronauts to orbit under the same NASA Commercial Crew Program. New market entrants like Blue Origin, financed by Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos, are trying to cut costs using reusable rockets, a strategy Musk is also exploring.
"We're standing at the threshold of all of this commercial activity in space," said Wayne Hale, who led NASA's space shuttle program, reported Bloomberg. "One of the whole points of this exercise is to build a commercial business that can go on and do things in space that are not funded by the taxpayer, that actually create wealth and jobs."
After launch, Hurley and Robert Behnken, the other NASA astronaut, will spend roughly 19 hours aboard the Crew Dragon before arriving at the ISS, CNN reported. They will stay in space to staff the ISS for anywhere from 30 to 110 days, according to NASA. Then, the SpaceX Crew Dragon will return on its second manned mission with fresh crew and to bring the veteran astronauts back to Earth, CNN reported.
- SpaceX Launches and Lands World's First Recycled Rocket ... ›
- Dear Elon Musk: Your Dazzling Mars Plan Overlooks Some Big ... ›
- Everything you need to know about SpaceX's historic astronaut launch ›
- Crew Dragon Launch Day Timeline: From Suit up to Docking with ... ›
- Updates to Coverage of NASA SpaceX Commercial Crew Test Flight ... ›
- SpaceX's first ever commercial space flight a pit stop on Elon Musk's ... ›
- SpaceX will launch private citizens into orbit - The Verge ›
- Thom Yorke of Radiohead Releases Song With Greenpeace to Help ... ›
- Patti Smith, Thom Yorke, Flea and More Featured on Just Released ... ›
- Musicians and Activists Unite at 'Pathway to Paris' - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.
- Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for ... ›
- Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It ... ›
- Thailand Begins the New Year With Plastic Bag Ban - EcoWatch ›
- Coronavirus Worsens Thailand's Plastic Waste Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Marium, Thailand's Beloved Baby Dugong, Is the Latest Victim of ... ›
By Ilana Cohen
Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
- 7 Republicans Joined Senate Democrats in Vote to Fight Climate ... ›
- Climate Change Acknowledged by Increasing Number of ... ›
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that 64 high-income nations have joined an effort to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine fairly, prioritizing the most vulnerable citizens, as Science reported. The program is called the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or Covax, and it is a joint effort led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
- Trump Denies CDC Director's 2021 Timeline for Coronavirus Vaccine ›
- CDC Tells States to Prepare for a Vaccine Before November Election ›
- Fauci Warns Pre-Pandemic Normalcy Not Likely Until Late 2021 ... ›
By Gloria Oladipo
In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air conditioned cooling centers. Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus.