Following the Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX has been chosen by NASA to take astronauts to the International Space Station in late 2017. After Boeing, SpaceX is the second private company contracted by NASA to conduct a space mission. According to the contract, each of the two companies will be given between two and six missions in the following years.
The team of astronauts will be carried to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s revolutionary spacecraft Crew Dragon that has been successfully tested in May 2015, after four years in which American astronauts have been taken to the International Space Station by Russians.
Besides a team of four astronauts, SpaceX and Boenig will also carry to the International Space Station about 220lbs of cargo, before remaining attached to the International Space Station for a period of about 210 days – time in which the astronauts will be serving their mission – acting as an emergency escape in case something goes wrong.
Contracting private American companies for carrying its space missions is safer and less costly than NASA’s previous contracts with Russia, saving the agency up to $80 million, given the fact that the price paid to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft was about $63 million for each astronaut. More than that, NASA won’t have to rely on Russia anymore, now that its astronauts will be taken to the space and back in a spacecraft built in the U.S and owned by an American company.
However, NASA’s decision of handling its space missions to commercial companies has encountered criticism from the most famous American astronauts, like Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the Moon and Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon. They addressed an open letter to president Obama, together with James Lovell, commander of Appolo 13 in which they are pleading for a continuation of NASA’s own space programs and missions, the only way in which the USA could remain a leader in space exploration.
Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX Company based in California, responded to the critiques arguing that private companies are the future of spaceflight, making it safer and more accessible to everyone. Talking about his personal goals, he declared that his big dream is helping the human race to colonize other planets before an eventual catastrophic event that would extinct our race from the face of the Earth. He is therefore very proud that SpaceX has been chosen by NASA to take astronauts to the International Space Station.
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