- SpaceX aims to win a high-stakes match to capture the flag as astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley prepare to return to Earth this weekend.
- President Barack Obama started the competition nine years ago, when his administration funded a public-private partnership program in which NASA would work with companies to send humans into space.
- SpaceX beat the other company in the competition, Boeing, until its first crew launch.
- The American flag flew on the first space shuttle and has remained on the International Space Station since the launchers stopped launching in 2011, waiting for the first crew of the commercial spacecraft to claim it. .
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more information.
When NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley return to Earth on SpaceX̵7;s Crew Dragon spacecraft, they will carry an American flag with even more symbolism than usual.
The trophy in question is a flag that flew on the first space launch mission. It was abandoned on the ISS by the crew of NASA’s last space shuttle flight in 2011, of which Hurley was a member. The idea was for the next astronauts to launch an American spacecraft from the United States ground to return the flag to Earth.
But at the time, it was still unclear which company would arrive first or which astronauts would be selected for the mission.
“I understand it will be a time as if it’s time to capture the flake of commercial space. So lucky for anyone to take that flag,” President Barack Obama said in a phone call with Hurley and colleagues in 2011. .
SpaceX launched Behnken and Hurley into the International Space Station in May, marking the first time humans have flown in orbiting a commercial spacecraft. They reached the ISS, then climbed through the hatch to the floating lab the size of a football field.
At the time, they blamed Elon Musk’s rocket company for winning the nine-year-old game that captured the flag.
Shortly afterwards, Hurley kept the flag of NASA’s live broadcast cameras alongside Behnken and astronaut Chris Cassidy.
“Chris had it right at the door where we left it nine years ago,” Hurley said. “He has a note: ‘Don’t forget to catch up with Crew Dragon.’
—NASA (@NASA) June 1, 2020
Behnken and Hurley are scheduled to disembark from the space station at 7:34 p.m. Saturday, to begin a fiery, high-speed journey through the Earth’s atmosphere. Assuming everything goes according to plan, they will explode Sunday at 2:42 p.m., off the Florida coast. By this time, SpaceX will have successfully captured the flag. You can see live coverage of the NASA flight here.
“The race isn’t over until it’s over,” Behnken told reporters ahead of the May release.
The world’s first commercial commercial aircraft
The Demo-2 mission is the product of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a public-private partnership initiated by President Barack Obama in 2011. The goal was to restore the United States’ ability to launch its own astronauts into the space once the space shuttle program is completed.
Both SpaceX and Boeing did so through the rigorous reviews and testing required by NASA. The space agency has provided more than $ 3.1 billion in funding to SpaceX in collaboration for nearly ten decades. Boeing has received about $ 4.8 billion in contracts. But software problems plagiarized Boeing’s untested flight to the space station, prompting a series of necessary overhauls and an upcoming re-enactment mission before the company could launch astronauts.
So SpaceX made the first manned flight.
If all goes well this weekend, NASA expects to regularly load astronauts into the crew’s Dragon Station.
“We are very focused on making sure that … we fulfill the ultimate mission, which is not to win against Boeing. It is to provide that capability to the International Space Station so that we can begin to rotate the crews of American ground,” he said. Behnken before the May release.
For Hurley, the flag symbolizes that long journey and the new era of commercial space projection.
“You can bet we’ll take it with us when we get back to Earth,” Hurley said as he presented the flag. “The important thing is, as I said before, just return the launch capability to the United States to and from the International Space Station. That’s really that flag.”
Susie Neilson helped report for this story.
This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published on June 2, 2020.
Do you have a story or inside information to share about the space transportation industry? Email Dave Mosher at email@example.com or a direct Twitter message to @davemosher. The following are more secure communication options.