On May 30, 2020, SpaceX and NASA completed a historic launch with NASA astronauts being sent into space with a commercially built spacecraft. It was the first launch with a private spacecraft in the history of NASA’s program.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon carried two astronauts to the International Space Station. Led by Elon Musk, SpaceX was able to create this historic launch in the first of many launches that will likely lead to more manned space missions, and even future space tourism.
This has massive implications for the private sector’s role in the next generation’s space age.
SpaceX’s Role in the Future of the Space Race
Billionaires are moving into space. Musk and Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos have been embroiled in a rocket-fueled battle to put people into space over the past few years. In many ways, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is a proof of concept: It’s intended to show that commercial investments can augment the existing national space program, and even exceed it by some measure. Many wealthy investors are now investing in space, and space travel and space exploration is moving faster than ever before.
In the past, there have been rocket explosions and failures, just as with NASA. The SpaceX Crew Dragon, however, was an unequivocal success, and that gives many hope that Musk may continue to be a driving force behind space exploration. By pairing SpaceX with NASA, it becomes a combined endeavor, rather than a competing one.
The Future of Space Travel
Once space travel becomes affordable and easy enough, it’s very likely that the search will be on for new, habitable spaces. There are many who want to start to work on the moon, through mines and experimental terraforming. There are others who want to get all the way to Mars, potentially occupying and inhabiting it.
While these may seem like far flung, futuristic dreams, they all begin with the capability of easily sending people into space. For a while, space races largely stalled, as there was no particular reason for the government to continue to invest significantly in the space program.
Furthermore, Musk (though hit or miss on his projects) has a tendency to innovate and think of outlandish but functional solutions to problems. This point of view may find new ways to do old tasks, and may ultimately revolutionize the future of space travel.
Still a Road Ahead for the Crew Dragon
The Crew Dragon still needs to remain operational and functional for the next few weeks before NASA can certify it, and it still needs to be able to return the crew safely as well. Once it is able to do all that, it can be used for future missions.
Once it is considered to be safe, it is likely that it will be bringing civilians into space. It may even be used for the filming of movies.
But all that requires that it continue to operate well, and that it be able to bring the crew safely home. It’s optimistic: similar models have already been used for cargo. For some, space travel may be much closer than it would seem.