SpaceX’s has again made history as its first-ever crewed mission has returned to terra firma. Called Demo-2, the mission lifted off atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday (May 30) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley were sent toward the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Crew Dragon capsule.
SpaceXis known to refurbish and refly Falcon 9 first stages, as well as the first stages of the company’s Falcon Heavy megarocket. This has being a major priority of SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, in line with his goal of cutting the cost of spaceflightto enable a variety of ambitious exploration feats — especially the colonization of Mars.
The world cannot ascertain the future of the booster or whether it will fly again, especially as SpaceXis yet to announce its fate. However, there are suggestions that the company might want to preserve it as a historic artifact. This is based on antecedents of the company as the first Falcon 9 first stage that ever landed successfully, for example, now stands outside SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
This particular Falcon 9 has a little bit of added historic appeal beyond its recent exploits: Emblazoned across its body is NASA’s retro “worm” logo, which was brought out of retirement for Demo-2.
Demo-2 is the first orbital human spaceflight to launch from the United States since NASA’s space shuttle fleet retired in 2011, which is a joint SpaceX-NASA effort. The company currently holds a $2.6 billion contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The deal includes flying six operational crewed missions to the ISS, and Demo-2 is designed to fully validate Crew Dragon and the Falcon 9 for those flights.
The Crew Dragon carrying Behnken and Hurley was named Endeavour after one of NASA’s old space shuttle orbiters. The rocket arrived at the ISS on Sunday, May 31, with Behnken and Hurley staying aboard the orbiting lab for one to four months even as Demo-2’s duration remains undecided.
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