“Dragon made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial uncrewed spacecraft to deliver cargo to the space station”, SpaceX wrote on its website. Left to right: actors Mackenzie Davis and Sebastian Stan, astronaut and JSC director Ellen Ochoa, astronaut Mike Hopkins, and space station flight controller Pooja Jesrani. The return mission that NASA envisioned in 2013 would cost $6 billion, but the team at NASA’s Ames Research Center thinks they might have found a cheaper way.
It’s no coincidence that most of these lawmakers are from states that host SpaceX’s industrial competitors, including archrival United Launch Alliance and its corporate parents, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
For now the description sounds like something you’d want to take out for a spin at night, “Crew Dragon was designed to be an enjoyable ride”. “But Dragon was also designed from the beginning to carry people, and today SpaceX is finalizing the necessary refinements to make that a reality”. The capsule also has an advanced emergency escape system (which was tested in May), and all of its functions can be controlled both autonomously, by SpaceX’s mission control on Earth, or by astronauts on board.
SpaceX has always been known for its big pans to usher in a new era of reusable rockets that can one day carry astronauts to the Red Planet and return them back on earth.
NASA has in fact taken different approaches to reviewing the company-led Falcon 9 and Antares failure investigations, and the agency’s explanation of why is not terribly convincing – it likely won’t do much to counter perceptions of favoritism toward SpaceX. Dubbed Falcon Heavy, the new rocket will be able to send capsules as far as Jupiter’s moons. It’s ambitious to be sure, but NASA scientists are optimistic about the so-called “Red Dragon” proposal, so named because it would rely on a modified version of SpaceX’s Dragon capsule.