- SpaceX is poised to win a high-stakes recreation of seize the flag as astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley put together to return to Earth this weekend.
- President Barack Obama began the competitors 9 years in the past, when his administration funded a public-private partnership program through which NASA would work with corporations to ship people to house.
- SpaceX beat the opposite firm within the competitors, Boeing, to its first crewed launch.
- The American flag flew on the primary house shuttle and has stayed on the Worldwide House Station for the reason that shuttles stopped launching in 2011, ready for the primary business spaceship crew to say it.
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When NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley return to Earth on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, they will be carrying an American flag with much more symbolism than common.
The trophy in query is a flag that flew on the primary house shuttle mission. It was left on the ISS by the crew of NASA’s closing house shuttle flight in 2011, of which Hurley was a member. The concept was that the subsequent astronauts to launch on an American spacecraft from US soil would return the flag to Earth.
However at the moment, it wasn’t but clear which firm would get there first, or which astronauts could be chosen for that mission.
“I perceive it may be type of like a capture-the-flag second right here for business spaceflight. So good luck to whoever grabs that flag,” President Barack Obama mentioned on a cellphone name with Hurley and his colleagues in 2011.
SpaceX launched Behnken and Hurley towards the Worldwide House Station in Might, marking the primary time people have ever flown a business spacecraft to orbit. They docked to the ISS, then climbed via the hatch into the football-field-sized floating laboratory.
In that second, they put Elon Musk’s rocket firm on the cusp of profitable the nine-year-long recreation of seize the flag.
Quickly after, Hurley held the flag as much as NASA’s reside broadcast cameras beside Behnken and astronaut Chris Cassidy.
“Chris had it proper on the hatch the place we left it 9 years in the past,” Hurley mentioned. “He is received a observe: ‘Don’t forget to take with Crew Dragon.'”
—NASA (@NASA) June 1, 2020
Behnken and Hurley are scheduled to undock from the house station at 7:34 p.m. ET on Saturday, then start a fiery, high-speed journey via Earth’s environment. Assuming all goes in line with plan, they will splash down on Sunday at 2:42 p.m., off the coast of Florida. At that time, SpaceX can have efficiently captured the flag. You possibly can watch NASA’s reside protection of the return flight right here.
“The race is not over till it is over,” Behnken informed reporters forward of the Might launch.
The world’s first business spaceflight
The Demo-2 mission is the product of NASA’s Business Crew Program, a public-private partnership that President Barack Obama began in 2011. The purpose was to revive the US’s means to launch its personal astronauts into house after the house shuttle program ended.
Each SpaceX and Boeing made it via the rigorous critiques and testing required by NASA. The house company has contributed greater than $3.1 billion of funding to SpaceX within the almost decade-long partnership. Boeing has obtained about $4.eight billion in contracts. However software program points plagued Boeing’s uncrewed take a look at flight to the house station, triggering a collection of required critiques and a forthcoming re-do mission earlier than the corporate can launch astronauts.
So SpaceX achieved its first crewed flight first.
If all goes nicely this weekend, NASA hopes to commonly cart astronauts to and from the station on the Crew Dragon.
“We actually are targeted on ensuring that we … accomplish the final word mission, which is not profitable towards Boeing. It is offering this functionality to the Worldwide House Station in order that we will begin rotating crews from American soil,” Behnken mentioned earlier than the Might launch.
For Hurley, the flag symbolizes that lengthy journey and the dawning new period of economic spaceflight.
“You possibly can guess we are going to take it with us after we depart again to Earth,” Hurley mentioned as he offered the flag. “The essential level is, as I mentioned earlier than, simply returning launch functionality to the USA to and from the Worldwide House Station. That is what this flag actually means.”
Susie Neilson contributed reporting for this story.
This story has been up to date with new data. It was initially revealed on June 2, 2020.
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