2021 has been a complicated year for a lot of sectors, but one industry that has undeniably seen massive progress is the aerospace industry. I’m not sure exactly how many groundbreaking launch stories we’ve covered here over the past 12 months, but it seems every week we get a new piece of news regarding another major success or development in the aerospace world. This week marked another feather in the ongoing SpaceX/NASA collaborative effort, as they ticked off another successful manned launch from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.
The four astronauts aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon ‘Endurance’ capsule successfully arrived and docked at the International Space Station around 21 hours later and are set to begin a six-month stint aboard the ISS’s orbiting laboratory as part of the Crew-3 mission. Flight commander Raja Chari described the journey as “way smoother than we could have imagined”, although Chari himself might not have known what to expect from aa first-hand experience, as he is one of three first-time space flyers in the crew and the first rookie to command a NASA mission since 1973.
While much of the hype this year has revolved around civilian space flight and the rapid emergence of the space tourism industry, SpaceX and NASA Crew-3 mission is a more about business than pleasure. The mission is, as the name might suggest, the third in SpaceX’s contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, following the successful missions of Crew-1 and 2 involving SpaceX’s Resilience and Endeavour Crew Dragon spacecraft in November 2020 and April 2021, respectively.
The four arriving crew members will join three others already aboard the ISS and will soon begin getting to work on their mission, conducting a long series of more than 200 experiments and numerous space walks before returning home in April of next year. For now, NASA and SpaceX can continue to bask in what has been a resoundingly fruitful 12 months for a partnership that harboured many critics when the pen was put to paper on the deal back in 2014.
Top image courtesy of NASA