Eight years after NASA hung up its thrusters on the Space Shuttle mission, on March 2, SpaceX launched an unmanned rocket to the International Space Station. This launch means that Americans will soon be able to go to the International Space Station via an American rocket launched from American soil, possibly as early as July. SpaceX, a private company focused on space exploration through reusable rockets, launched an unmanned rocket into space from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The mission was a test flight to prove that the rocket could be guided successfully from Earth to the International Space Station, dock and then splash down into the ocean. The mission was successful and provided valuable information about how astronauts experience space travel, despite the fact that it was an unmanned mission. The rocket was guided from Earth, but during the flight a robot was recording the experience that an astronaut would physically endure during the launch. The entirety of the mission lasted 5 days until the splash down on Mar. 8.
According to The New York Times SpaceX is scheduled to launch another unmanned rocket in June using the same capsule from the Mar. 2 launch to test if the capsules are safely reusable. Kenneth Chang, writing for the New York Times, also identifies this launch as putting “NASA and the United States on the cusp of a renewed era of human spaceflight.” Since the discontinuation of NASA’s space shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have had to rent seats on rockets from Russia in order to reach the International Space Station. The seats on Russia’s Suyez rocket sold to NASA sold for as much as $21.8 million when the Space Shuttle was around in 2008 to $81 million per seat in 2018. Given that prior reality, the launch of SpaceX’s rocket is an exciting advancement for America’s space exploration. It enables independence because America was at the forefront of space exploration for many years and now America can rejoin the research into space exploration without the exuberant cost.
By Ell Shelp-Peck, Staff Writer