SpaceX began its Crew-2 mission on April 23rd, successfully launching astronauts toward the ISS in a reused rocket and space capsule. This mission is the latest step in NASA’s Commercial Crew program, and marks the first manned SpaceX mission in a reused spacecraft.
Reusable spacecraft are nothing new. In fact, NASA began developing reusable craft while Nixon was in office, and all of the classic space shuttles or “spaceplanes,” such as Discovery and Atlantis, were reusable. But interest in reusable craft dwindled after the Columbia and Challenger disasters. As NASA reduced the frequency of its missions, single-use craft became more cost-effective than reusable systems, which have a long development time.
Watch Crew-2 astronauts check in LIVE from space!
— NASA (@NASA) April 23, 2021
But the U.S. government’s interest space has increased over the last few years, largely due to the rise of NASA contractors like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic. As shuttle launches become more frequent, reusable craft become more cost-effective, which is why NASA plans to use SpaceX’s reusable Crew Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket for future trips to the ISS, and maybe even the moon.
But the Crew-2 mission isn’t just a story about reusable rockets. It’s the most diverse SpaceX mission yet, comprised of astronauts from three different countries. It’s also the first “commercial crew handover,” as the craft will return to Earth with astronauts who arrived at the ISS last year during the Crew-1 mission.
Astronauts in the Crew-2 mission will arrive at the ISS on Saturday, April 24th. After a few days, astronauts from the Crew-1 mission will steal their craft to return to Earth. During their 6-month stay in space, the Crew-2 astronauts will conduct microgravity tests and study the Earth’s atmosphere.