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For SpaceX, the day of glory has arrived

A new space era opens on Wednesday with the launch of two NASA astronauts into space via a private rocket. It is the first manned flight to take off from the United States in nine years.

A new space era opens on Wednesday with the launch of two NASA astronauts into space via a private rocket. It is the first manned flight to take off from the United States in nine years.

AFP) International Space Station (ISS). Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, the two men chosen by NASA for this mission, have been in quarantine for two weeks. But despite the confinement, the flight was maintained.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., founded in 2002 by Elon Musk (an entrepreneur obsessed with Mars and determined to break the rules of the aerospace industry) has gradually won the confidence of the largest space agency on the planet. In 2012, it became the first private company to tie up a cargo capsule to the ISS, which it has been supplying regularly. Two years later, NASA ordered him to follow up: send his astronauts there, starting in “2017”, by adapting the Dragon capsule.

The space agency paid over three billion dollars for SpaceX to design, build, test and operate its reusable capsule for six future space round trips. The development experienced delays, explosions, parachute problems, but SpaceX beat the giant Boeing, also paid to make a capsule (Starliner), still not ready.

The investment, decided for the freighter under the Bush presidency and for the astronauts by Barack Obama, is considered fruitful compared to the tens of billions that cost the previous systems developed by NASA. β€œSome have said it is impractical or unwise to work with the private sector in this way. I do not agree, “said Barack Obama in 2010, right here. The hostility to Congress and to NASA, faced with the claims of the start-up, was immense. Ten years later, another president, Donald Trump, will attend the Kennedy Center at the potential dedication.

A safer rocket

It’s been raining a lot in Florida for the past few days, and Cape Canaveral forecasters estimated Tuesday 40% the risk of inclement weather on Wednesday. If necessary, the flight will be postponed to Saturday. Crew Dragon is a capsule like Apollo, but a 21st century version. Touch screens have replaced buttons and joysticks. The interior is dominated by white, the more subtle lighting. Nothing to do with the huge space shuttles, huge winged birds that served from 1981 to 2011. Unlike the shuttles, one of which exploded in 1986 after takeoff (Challenger), Dragon can eject itself urgently if the rocket has a problem .

Crew Dragon will overtake the station at 400 kilometers above sea level on Thursday and will probably remain moored there until August. If it fulfills its mission and is certified safe, the Americans will no longer depend on the Russians to access space: since 2011, the Soyuz were the only space taxis available.

Routings from Florida will return to regular, with four astronauts on board. A Japanese will be on the next trip. A European should take place in the next one, perhaps the French Thomas Pesquet, who is currently training in Houston to return to the ISS in 2021.


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