WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- On Sunday, NASA Crew-1 boarding SpaceX spacecraft made a safe landing via splash down at Panama City in Florida.
- SpaceX is planning to fly an all-civilian crew in space this coming September, and a flight for astronauts in October.
- NASA and SpaceX will continue to work hand-in-hand in a bid to develop commercial space flights.
With the NASA Crew-1 back to Earth. SpaceX has successfully made a round-trip flight to the International Space Station. Little by little, it looks like Elon Musk’s goal of taking humans to outer space is turning into reality.
On Sunday, the four astronauts ━ Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover, together with mission specialist Soichi Noguchi ━ had a safe landing in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. The touchdown, which occurred at 2:56 a.m., south of Panama City, looked flawless.
Shortly after splashing down the Gulf, SpaceX’s ground controller said: “We welcome you back to planet Earth. For those of you enrolled in our frequent-flier program, you’ve earned 68 million miles on this voyage.”
“We’ll take those miles. Are they transferable?” Hopkins cheerfully responded.
For its next mission, SpaceX is planning to have its first all-civilian crew in September that would travel to space around the Earth for a couple of days. The upcoming flight, called Inspiration4, is sponsored by billionaire businessman Jared Isaacman.
During an early briefing on Sunday, NASA’s human spaceflight directorate Kathey Lueders said: “This was really our goal when we set up commercial crew… Honestly, we’re very excited to see it kind of taking off.”
Per SpaceX senior adviser for flight reliability, Hans Koenigsmann, Sunday’s accomplishment boosted the company’s objective of executing a regular commercial flight for ordinary citizens.
“I think going forward we’re ready for this important step,” he said. “We’re ready for the first private astronaut mission. I think the first mission in particular is a very special mission.”
In October, SpaceX is also having another flight that would bring astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Matthias Maurer to space. The flight will be managed by Houston-based company Axiom Space. The company, which is being led by former NASA astronaut now company’s Vice President Michael López-Alegría, is working on creating a commercial space station.
Even with the successful splashdown, Lueders said that NASA and SpaceX should remain focused on getting the job done. While flying to space could be romanticized in modern times, the deed still largely remains a risky and hazardous endeavor.
“We’re still at the beginning steps of continuing to make this look easy. But this is only our first full operational mission. So we need to keep having missions look like this… But it is very exciting that we’re starting to lay in the foundations for these key capabilities,” she said.
Several years ago, NASA, through its “commercial crew” program, opted to outsource human spaceflight missions to the space station in a bid that such missions would excel by bringing civilians to space.