The Crew Dragon is due to take off from Cape Canaveral space base in Florida on Wednesday evening. It is the first time that a commercial company brings people to space.
The United States has been dependent on arch-rival Russia for years. That is the only country capable of bringing people to the International Space Station and back.
The last manned US flight was in July 2011, when the last space shuttle, Atlantis, landed. The pilot of that space shuttle was Douglas Hurley. The now 53-year-old astronaut will be on board the Crew Dragon on Wednesday evening. His travel companion is Bob Behnken (49), who also stayed in the ISS in 2008 and 2010 and then did six spacewalks.
The Crew Dragon was built by SpaceX, the company of businessman and Tesla boss Elon Musk. The capsule is not operated with buttons and switches, but with screens that resemble tablet computers.
Previously, unmanned Dragons went to the ISS to bring supplies, but this will be the first manned mission. Last year, a Crew Dragon without a crew already went to the ISS to test all systems.
Earlier this year, SpaceX deliberately failed to launch a vessel to see if a crew could be safely returned to Earth in an emergency. As it turned out, the capsule splashed gently into the ocean, hanging from parachutes, exactly as intended.
The American space agency NASA pays SpaceX for the flight. Two other flights are already planned. Later this year, three Americans and a Japanese with a Crew Dragon should go to the ISS, and next year two Americans, a Russian and a Frenchman. In 2021 or 2022, four space tourists take a trip with a Crew Dragon.
To the moon
At the same time, the United States is working towards its great goal. In four years, Americans will have to walk around on the moon again. To that end, the country is building another vessel together with Europe, the Orion. It should make its first test flight at the end of next year. The capsule must fly unmanned to the moon and back.
In 2022 or 2023, people with an Orion must first fly to the moon, orbit it and return safely. The last time people went into space so far away was in 1972.