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Manned SpaceX rocket launches from Florida

by Lynde Langdon
Posted 5/30/20, 04:45 pm

Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are the first astronauts to fly into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., in nearly a decade. The two NASA astronauts blasted off at 3:22 p.m. EDT on Saturday aboard a rocket designed and built by the U.S. company SpaceX. They docked with the International Space Station and boarded it early on Sunday.

What’s special about this launch? Since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have had to catch expensive rides on Russian spaceships. SpaceX designed the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket to land on a barge at sea—instead of crashing into the ocean like previous rockets—so it can be refueled and used again, saving money. Ultimately, NASA hopes commercial partners will help send U.S. astronauts back to the moon in the next few years and on to Mars in the 2030s.

Dig deeper: From the WORLD archives, read Daniel James Devine’s report about NASA’s reliance on private firms.

Editor’s note: WORLD has updated this report since its initial posting.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Sat, 05/30/2020 10:46 pm

    This was a step forward for NASA and let us pray that it is successful. NASA is now working on Gateway with commercial partners to return to the moon with the goal of 2024, which is part of the Artemis program.

    The purpose of this program is to develop cost effective space technologies to enable us to go to Mars. One of the major challenges is the high cost of sending mass from the earth surface to orbit (~$10,000 per lb).  The earth has a deep "gravity well" to overcome where the moon has one that is much smaller, so NASA seeks to utilize in-situ resources from the moon like water located in the South Pole.  Other resources may be fuel for propulsion, metals for building spacecraft or habitats, or lunar soil modified to grow plants. Part of the effort will be exploring the moon to determine what resources are available to us and to develop robotic mining and manufacturing capabilities to utilize these resources.

    For example, one component will be able to develop robots that build habits with minimal resources from earth where the majority is lunar in-situ resources.  A robotic digger will dig a hole using the lunar regolith to shield the astronauts from the deadly radiation and a 3-D printing robot will construct the walls and roof creating a habitable home. The printing robot will have to print out all the plumbing, the electrical system, and environmental control life support systems (ECLSS).  Some of the complex components will have to be brought from earth, but NASA wants all the systems constructed robotically and shown to be operational before the astronauts arrive. These same technologies will be used on Mars to prepare astronauts to arrive where the systems will be up and running prior to the arrival of the astronauts ensuring safe and cost effective exploration missions.