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On May 31, while Planet Earth trudged along in its own share of chaos, two NASA astronauts journeyed to the International Space Station (ISS) in Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, making Musk’s SpaceX the first private company to launch human beings to the mysterious intergalactic skies. By Bayar Jain

 

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While space tourism continues to be constricted to a select few, a special mission on May 31 could have set the ball rolling for bringing these fantasies to fruition in the future, all thanks to genius engineer and billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. His company, SpaceX successfully launched two NASA astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to ISS – making it the first private company to achieve this mammoth feat. Moreover, this mission also marks the first instance of American astronauts heading to the orbit since July 8, 2011 – a mission in which Hurley was present as well. That’s not all! The last time NASA launched astronauts in a new vehicle was 40 years ago.

 

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Crew Dragon spacecraft took off from launch complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after being postponed 16 minutes and 53 seconds before its earlier scheduled date of May 27 due to bad weather caused by the tropical storm Bertha. This particular launchpad is the same one which was used to carry the first humans to the moon.

 

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The two astronauts aboard the ship will orbit our planet for 19 hours, occasionally manoeuvring the spacecraft manually so they can share their experience with future space travellers. Once they dock at the space station, the two will collectively conduct tests and research. The mission is expected to last for 30 to 90 days, following which Behnken and Hurley will board the Crew Dragon to depart from the ISS. It is then expected to make its landing in the Atlantic Ocean, following which it will be recovered by the Go Navigator Recovery Vessel.

This mission is a humongous step in the field of sustainable space exploration. The launch represents and resonates with Musk’s vision of making spaceflights more feasible and frequent by using reusable rockets.

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