Nasa wants to send astronauts to the ISS with SpaceX for the first time

SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch to iss.
SpaceX Crew Dragon, 2020.

For the first time in ten years, Nasa will again be sending astronauts into space from the United States at the end of May. It will be the first flight with the private space transporter SpaceX.

Premiere for private space shuttle

At the end of May, the US space agency Nasa plans to send astronauts from the USA to the International Space Station ISS for the first time in almost a decade. Nasa astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are to take off on 27 May on board a "CrewDragon" from the private space company SpaceX in a "Falcon 9" rocket from Cape Canaveral spaceport, NASA boss Jim Bridenstine announced on Twitter.

This would be the first time since 2011 that astronauts would be launching to the ISS from the USA - and the first time they would be transported by SpaceX. The company has so far only transported cargo to the ISS. Nasa had decommissioned its own shuttle fleet for cost reasons. The "Atlantis" flew for the last time in July 2011. 

Since then, Nasa has been dependent solely upon Russian Soyuz rockets to bring its astronauts to the ISS - something that has been causing resentment in the USA for some time now for financial and geopolitical reasons.

The mission now in prospect is the "last flight test" of SpaceX, Nasa said. How long astronauts Behnken and Hurley will remain on board the ISS remains to be clarified.

However, due to the Corona Pandemic, there will be restrictions on the number of spectators at the launch site in the US state of Florida. Nasa has limited its work during the crisis, but the ISS continues to operate.

As early as 2014, Nasa had announced that it wanted to re-enter manned space flight itself - at that time, the year 2017 had been set as the target. In addition to SpaceX, Boeing was also commissioned to develop transporters for astronauts. However, the "Starliner" developed by Boeing did not make it to the ISS on its first attempt in December. The unmanned test is now to be repeated.

Three astronauts return from the ISS

After three months of research in space, three astronauts returned safely to Earth on Friday in the middle of the corona crisis. According to a live transmission from the US space agency NASA, the Soyuz capsule with the two US astronauts Jessica Meir, Andrew Morgan and the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka landed in the Kazakh steppe.

Mission to the International Space Station with crew dragon.
Mission to the International Space Station with crew dragon.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos had ruled out postponing the return journey from the International Space Station ISS due to the pandemic. Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner and US astronaut Christopher Cassidy remain on the ISS. They had been launched to the ISS last week under strict safety precautions due to the pandemic.

Meir and Skripochka had been deployed to the space station some 400 kilometres above Earth since September last year, Morgan since July 2019.

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