Historic Public-Private Partnership Launches Astronauts to ISS
by Jordan Banks, age 13
On November 15, 2020, NASA made history by launching the first full flight in partnership with a private American space company, SpaceX, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule carried three American astronauts and one Japanese astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule were built by SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturing company founded by Elon Musk. NASA has been paying Russia to fly American astronauts into space via the Russian Soyuz capsule since 2011. Since the Crew Dragon is able to carry one more passenger than the Russian capsule, seven astronauts will be able to stay on the ISS.
The Crew Dragon will remain attach to the ISS until its return voyage to Earth. The ISS currently has only enough space for six astronauts to sleep, so the Crew Dragon will be used as a temporary bunk for the seventh astronaut.
NASA and SpaceX are currently planning launches to the ISS every six months. And, NASA is not the only buyer for SpaceX flights: other private companies plan to contract with SpaceX to take tourists into space.
The astronauts on this latest voyage were: Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover of NASA. The ISS has been orbiting Earth for over 20 years now, but Glover will be the first Black long-term ISS crew member. He stated that he is “honored to be in this position” and also emphasized that there were many different Black astronauts who led the way and were just as capable.
“I’ve had some amazing colleagues before me that really could have done it, and there are some amazing folks that will go behind me,” Mr. Glover said in an interview, “I wish it would have already been done, but I try not to draw too much attention to it.”
[Sources: News for Kids; The New York Times; NASA]