Crew from aborted Soyuz capsule set for ISS mission next week

Elon Musk & NASA want to send civilians to the space station

SpaceX, a commercial company founded by Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind the Tesla electric vehicle, launched its Crew Dragon spacecraft early yesterday, lifting off on the company's Falcon 9 rocket from Nasa's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

It is the first time a commercially built spacecraft has docked with the International Space Station. Named after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien, Ripley will assess and document conditions from within the capsule in preparation for SpaceX's second mission; one which will include NASA astronauts on board, according to SpaceX. Across the country at SpaceX Mission Control in Hawthorne, California, company employees went wild, cheering every step of the way until the capsule successfully reached orbit.

SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons. Final week, upon finishing its pre-launch evaluations, NASA estimated that if the demonstration flight went nicely we might see crewed flights inside just a few months.

"Welcome to the new era in spaceflight", McClain said from inside Dragon. According to the US Government Accountability Office, the U.S has relied on Russian Federation to take its astronauts to and from the International Space Station with a price tag of 82 million per seat since the retirement of the Shuttle Program.

The capsule's lone passenger for launch - a mannequin wearing a white SpaceX spacesuit - remained strapped into its seat as the station's U.S., Canadian and Russian crew removed supplies and photographed the spotless white interior.

Crew Dragon on the launch pad

As part of the March 3 shakedown, the space station astronauts sent commands for Dragon to retreat and then move forward again, before the capsule closed in for good.

Just two hours after the Dragon's grand entrance, the station crew entered to take air samples. Elon Musk, left, CEO of SpaceX, speaks as NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, center, and Doug Hurley, right, listen during a news c. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, speaks during a news conference after the SpaceX Falcon 9 Demo-1 launch at the Kennedy Space Center.

While most of us were asleep, SpaceX wrote history. The Crew Dragon spacecraft unmanned test flight is scheduled for launch early Saturday morning.

Next up, though, is Boeing, which is looking to launch its Starliner capsule without a crew as early as April and with a crew possibly in August. The version designed for humans is slightly bigger and safer.

SpaceX craft docks at International Space Station
When certified to be finally safe for humans, the Crew Dragon has the capacity to carry at most four crew members. Saint-Jacques and Kononenko were the first to enter the Crew Dragon after opening the hatch.

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