It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem:OperationsCost & SchedulePerformanceTraining & SupportTestDisposalManufacturingSE integrates all the disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort forming a structured development process that proceeds from concept to production to operation.I would add to this the lack of effective SE as an even more fundament problem in today's development environment.Without effective systems engineering, there can be no project management, because there is nothing to manage: projects are akin to building an airplane in flight, with no requirements, metrics, architecture, testing, modeling, feasibility studies, or modeling of alternatives.Organizations need to budget approximately 20% of a project or program budget for effective SE.Because of the expense, companies and government agencies are foregoing systems engineering as a necessary aspect of complex, high, visibility efforts, with expensive and often disastrous results.As a CIO/CTO, you need to ask yourself why so many projects are outright failures, or fail to deliver functionality as promised, or become so expensive that any cost benefits from new efficiencies the system provides are never realized, and why the people who have to use the system become frustrated and leave.Often it's because SE is seen as an unnecessary extravagance, that the coders, database developers, and infrastructure team can handle themselves.Here's a question: If you were building your dream home, would you just let the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, masons, HVAC technicians, and roofers design your home as they were building it?
The International Space Station has received its latest cargo delivery that included food, tools, experiments, and a brand new space toilet.
As the Arizona Senate election heats up ahead of November, Democratic candidate Mark Kelly’s team launched its own Snapchat account on Wednesday, including the first custom Snapchat AR lens from a Senate campaign. Retired NASA astronaut Kelly is running in a hotly contended special election in Arizona to serve out the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s term through 2022. The seat is currently held by Sen. Martha McSally, who is running in opposition to Kelly on the Republican ticket. Kelly’s Snapchat account will be used to rally voters ahead of the election, seeing as the campaign has strayed away from in-person events and canvassing due to the coronavirus pandemic. A campaign spokesperson told The Verge on Wednesday that the team... Continue reading…
Netflix's space drama "Away" is the most popular TV show on the streamer for the second week in a row.
Also: Cygnus named for Columbia 'naut, and Space Shuttle Endeavour dressed up for launch In brief  "As we've always said, we expect it to take three flights to make it to orbit," upstart launch vehicle outfit Astra bravely said as its imaginatively named Rocket 3.1 went *phut* shortly after lift-off last week.…
A former astronaut explains what it’s like to pilot the Space Shuttle onto the runway … and boink back down to the ground on the Soyuz.
In addition, thermoset polymer matrix used in application such as glass-reinforced plastic radar domes on aircraft and graphite-epoxy payload bay doors on the space shuttle will further drive the market in the projected period.Geography- Segment AnalysisNorth America held the largest share with 38.9% in 2019 in glass prepreg market, due to increase in rise of aerospace industry.According to SelectUSA, in 2018 the sector contributed 151 billion dollars in export revenue to the U.S. economy.Drivers –Glass Prepreg MarketIncreasing demand of lightweight vehiclesGlass Prepreg is used for its tensile strength, temperature tolerance and dimensional flexibility in automotive and aerospace applications.Treated glass cords are used for reinforcing extruded profiles of rubber and thermoplastics in automotive applications as well as clutch disks and brake pads are lined with woven fiberglass to maintain the plastic quality in a warm and abrasive environment.Lightweight materials are important to improve the fuel efficiency of modern vehicles while maintaining their safety and durability.Fiberglass strengthened rotor blades can achieve rotor blade lengths of up to 80 meters / 262 feet and are used on land and offshore windmill systems in different settings.Talk to one of our sales representative about the full report by providing your details in the link below: –Glass Prepreg MarketHealth effects of Glass PrepregAirborne glass particles can be inhaled.Glass Prepreg products may cause skin and mucous membranes itching due to the mechanical abrasion effect of fibers.
These solid rocket boosters are a holdover from the space shuttle era.
Teacher Christa McAuliffe and the six other astronauts were lost on that cold January day in 1986.
Why the Industries can’t Function Without O-RingsO-Rings are the most basic of all components required to keep components together in any present-day machinery.The O-rings are the basic keeping-the-cog-together elements in any given industry system.They are responsible for preventing leakages and slip and keep two machine parts from being disjointed.From pipelines in a petrochemical plant to the space shuttle nose cone, O-rings are playing their due part everywhere in the manufacturing sector.Need is the mother of invention and as newer avenues for the use of O-Rings in modern machinery are discovered, the need to manufacture suitable O-rings develops as well.And that is why perhaps while the O-rings used to be all round shaped a few years ago, now they can be found in the solid square and the strong, gripping cross triangle even.
NASA announced on Friday that its next mission with SpaceX won't launch until late October at the earliest. The mission, called Crew-1, will ferry four astronauts to the space station and back: Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Soichi Noguchi.  It was initially slated to launch as early as September, but NASA said the change accommodate the schedules of other astronauts going to and from the International Space Station. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX and NASA will launch their next batch of astronauts to the International Space Station "no earlier" than October 23, the space agency announced on Friday.  That pushes back the anticipated start date of the Crew-1 mission, which was originally slated to launch as early as late September. Crew-1 is technically SpaceX's first official, contracted astronaut mission for NASA, since the one it recently completed was a demonstration. The successful completion of that test, called Demo-2, paved the way for at least six more planned ISS missions as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.  NASA said in a press release that it pushed back the launch "to best meet the needs of the International Space Station" by coordinating with the schedules of other astronauts going to and from the ISS. That includes NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who are slated to blast off on a Russian Soyuz rocket on October 14. The Crew-1 mission will also wait for NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner to return to Earth from the space station on October 22.  Plus, the new timeline will allow the Crew-1 astronauts' stay on the ISS to intersect with that of the members of the Crew-2 mission scheduled for spring.  NASA also said it is still wrapping up data reviews and certification processes following the Demo-2 mission, a key step in preparing for Crew-1.  Meet the Crew-1 crew Crew-1 includes NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Mike Hopkins, and Victor Glover, as well as JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi. Hopkins is slated to be the mission's commander, Glover the pilot, and Walker and Noguchi mission specialists.  The team plans to stay on the ISS for the standard six months, during which they'll conduct space walks, do science experiments, and work on regular station maintenance.  In partnering with SpaceX, NASA is reducing its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, which have recently cost up to $90 million per seat. NASA hasn't been able to launch its own astronauts in American systems since 2011, when it ended the space shuttle program. A seat on a SpaceX shuttle is projected to cost $55 million, though that figure does not include the funding NASA gave the company to develop its new Crew Dragon spaceship in the first place.SEE ALSO: SpaceX showed it can safely ferry astronauts to and from space. In September, it'll launch 4 more — here's who's next. DON'T MISS: SpaceX says its first NASA astronaut flight went 'surprisingly well' — but the mission came with a few eye-opening snags Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Everything SpaceX had to get right for Crew Dragon's Splashdown
Why the Industries can’t Function Without O-RingsO-Rings are the most basic of all components required to keep components together in any present-day machinery.The O-rings are the basic keeping-the-cog-together elements in any given industry system.They are responsible for preventing leakages and slip and keep two machine parts from being disjointed.From pipelines in a petrochemical plant to the space shuttle nose cone, O-rings are playing their due part everywhere in the manufacturing sector.Need is the mother of invention and as newer avenues for the use of O-Rings in modern machinery are discovered, the need to manufacture suitable O-rings develops as well.And that is why perhaps while the O-rings used to be all round shaped a few years ago, now they can be found in the solid square and the strong, gripping cross triangle even.
Why the Industries can’t Function Without O-RingsO-Rings are the most basic of all components required to keep components together in any present-day machinery.The O-rings are the basic keeping-the-cog-together elements in any given industry system.They are responsible for preventing leakages and slip and keep two machine parts from being disjointed.From pipelines in a petrochemical plant to the space shuttle nose cone, O-rings are playing their due part everywhere in the manufacturing sector.Need is the mother of invention and as newer avenues for the use of O-Rings in modern machinery are discovered, the need to manufacture suitable O-rings develops as well.And that is why perhaps while the O-rings used to be all round shaped a few years ago, now they can be found in the solid square and the strong, gripping cross triangle even.
NASA last week launched its Mars 2020 Perseverance rover to hunt for signs of ancient alien life. Once on Mars, Perseverance will be powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator. The nuclear "battery" is fueled by a rare human-made material called plutonium-238. Perseverance is just the latest in a long line of groundbreaking, plutonium-powered spacecraft that have changed our understanding of the solar system. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. NASA's latest car-size Mars rover, Perseverance, rocketed off Earth last week, kicking off a seven-month voyage through deep space to Mars. The robot is designed to spend three years exploring the red planet's surface, hunting for signatures of ancient alien microbes, stashing Martian soil samples for future return to Earth, deploying the first-ever interplanetary helicopter, and paving the way for human explorers with a variety of experiments. However, a device called a multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator, or MMRTG, could power Perseverance for more than 14 years thanks to a unique nuclear material called plutonium-238, or Pu-238. The material has powered NASA spacecraft for decades, including some for close to half a century. Pu-238 is a byproduct of nuclear weapons production. Unlike its sister chemical, plutonium-239 (which makes up the fissile cores of bombs), half of any amount decays within about 87 years. On a spacecraft, Pu-238's decay gives off lasting warmth that helps safeguard fragile electronics. Most importantly, wrapping Pu-238 with thermoelectric materials that convert heat to electricity, forms a bewilderingly long-lasting power source. The space agency used to have just only 37 lbs of Pu-238 left to put inside a spacecraft — enough for another two or three spacecraft. But NASA and the US Energy Department have resurrected Pu-238 production capabilities, helping provide enough material for Perseverance and future missions. To tide you over until the Perseverance reaches Mars and begins its alien hunt, here are the 16 greatest Pu-238-powered US space programs of the past and present — plus more that have yet to launch.SEE ALSO: NASA added 6 HD video cameras to its next Mars rover so we can all watch the first footage of a spacecraft landing on another planet DON'T MISS: A forgotten war technology could safely power Earth for millions of years. Here's why we aren't using it Transit satellite network Physicist Glenn Seaborg discovered plutonium in 1940. Just 20 years later, engineers used it to build nuclear batteries for spacecraft. In 1960 the US Navy took over an experimental plutonium-powered satellite program called TRANSIT to guide their submarines and missiles from space. The first satellite powered by plutonium, called Transit 4A (above), reached orbit on June 29, 1961.   Youtube Embed: 800pxHeight: 450px By 1988, dozens of similar spacecraft — four of them using nuclear power sources — made up a rudimentary satellite navigation network. Each satellite beamed a unique radio signal. With multiple signals coming from different orbits, the Navy could easily track its submarines and other wartime hardware. But space scientists hit a snag early on: Their data suggested that spacecraft slowed down or sped up over certain parts of Earth. When researchers mapped the anomalies, they realized that some regions of the planet were far denser than they thought, and that the extra mass — and gravity — subtly affected spacecraft speed. The map of the anomalies (above) became the first of Earth's geoid, a representation of the planet's true gravitational shape. It's now essential to correcting the orbits of satellites. Apollo surface experiments Apollo 11 astronauts in July 1969 dropped off about 1.2 ounces of Pu-238 on the moon. The material sat inside a device called the Apollo Lunar Radioisotopic Heater. The device kept a seismic monitoring station warm during half-month-long lunar nights, when surface temperatures can dip to to -243 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius). All subsequent Apollo missions used plutonium, but kept theirs inside of nuclear batteries to provide 70 watts of power. That's on par with an incandescent light bulb's energy use — and just enough to charge the electronics of surface experiments. Above, astronaut Alan Bean pulls a plutonium fuel cask from the lunar lander during Apollo 12's first extravehicular excursion. A similar nuclear battery from NASA's flubbed Apollo 13 mission survived reentry to Earth orbit. NASA suspects it landed somewhere in the bottom of the Tonga Trench in the South Pacific Ocean. To this day, no one has found it, or detected any release of the material. Nimbus B-1 satellite One of the most important space missions powered by Pu-238 began with a disaster. The Nimbus-B-1 satellite was supposed to use its nuclear battery to measure Earth's surface temperatures from space, through both day and night. But when it launched on May 18, 1968, a booster failed and mission control blew up the rocket and spread chunks of spacecraft all over the Pacific Ocean. All was not lost, though. A crew recovered the battery's fully intact fuel casks (above) between California's Jalama Beach and San Miguel Island, demonstrating their robust safety design. Nuclear engineers recycled the plutonium fuel into a new battery, which was used in the follow-up Nimbus III mission (one of the very first navigation satellites to aid search-and-rescue operations). The Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 probes NASA intended its Pioneer program of more than a dozen spacecraft to explore the moon, visit Venus, and monitor space weather. But most people remember Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 for their daring flybys of never-before-visited outer planets.  Pioneer 10 launched on March 2, 1972. NASA maintained contact with it until 2003, when, at a distance of 7.5 billion miles (12 billion kilometers), its radio signal became too weak to detect. Using a 155-watt nuclear battery, it became the first spacecraft to cross the Asteroid Belt, visit Jupiter, and beam back images of the gas giant. Pioneer 11, which launched on April 6, 1973, became the first spacecraft to visit Saturn. NASA lost contact with that probe more than 22 years after its launch, when it was billions of miles from Earth. Pioneer 10 lasted significantly longer, launching on March 2, 1972, and sending its last, feebly detectable signal on April 27, 2002 — more than three decades of continuous operation. Just in case the probes bump into intelligent aliens, each one carries a plaque to communicate basic information about the spacecraft's origin and creators. The Viking landers By the time sunlight reaches Mars, it's about 50% less intense than on Earth. Combined with a dusty and windblown environment, solar panels become a liability for surface spacecraft. To touch down on the Martian surface for the first time in 1976, NASA built two Viking orbiters and a Pu-238-powered lander for each one. Both landers carried stereoscopic cameras, a weather station, a shovel, and a soil-sampling chamber to sniff out signs of life 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) from Earth. Neither lander dug deep enough to find water ice, and the soil experiment failed to detect organic molecules, though they did sniff out carbon dioxide — a gas emitted by most active lifeforms — when it introduced a nutrient-rich liquid to the soil. Although non-biological soil chemistry likely caused the anomalous result, the Viking landers didn't labor in vain. In addition to returning stunning views of the red planet (above), the landers made the case for NASA to send a flotilla of spacecraft to visit Mars, including the Phoenix lander, which found both water ice and the chemicals that may have tricked Viking's life-detecting experiments. The Voyager probes The Voyager probes, launched in 1977, capitalized on years of improvements in electronics over their predecessors, Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, to return stunning views of the solar system — including a view of the Earth from 4 billion miles away that Carl Sagan championed. At 13.9 billion miles (22.4 billion kilometers) and counting, Voyager 1 is the farthest human-made object from Earth. It left the planetary solar system and reached the interstellar medium, or space between star systems, in August 2012. Despite the vast distances and more than 40 years of operation, each of the Voyagers' three Pu-238-filled nuclear batteries allow the spacecraft to continue communicating with ground stations on Earth. NASA expects each spacecraft to go fully offline by 2025. Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 also launched with a more advanced message for any intelligent life they encountered: a golden record full of images, audio and other information about Earth and its lifeforms. This time capsule of humanity is expected to last about 1 billion years. Ulysses solar orbiter To get into a peculiar orbit above and below the sun to study its poles, designers of the Ulysses spacecraft ran into a paradox: a sun-probing machine that couldn't rely on solar power. Achieving Ulysses' orbit required flying to Jupiter, then using the gas giant's gravity to slingshot the spacecraft into a proper trajectory. Sunlight is 25 times dimmer at Jupiter than at Earth, and solar panels would have doubled the spacecraft's weight — 2,500 lbs (1,130 kg) of arrays versus a 124-lb (56-kg) nuclear battery. Ulysses launched in 1990, pulled off the Jupiter gravity assist two years later, and began its mission in 1994. It lasted until 2009, when the decaying Pu-238's warmth faded enough that it couldn't keep Ulysses' hydrazine propellant from freezing. Before it perished after nearly 19 years of service, however, Ulysses flew through the tails of several comets, explored the sun's north and south poles, and probed the solar wind. Galileo Jupiter probe Launched from the payload bay of space shuttle Atlantis in 1995, the Galileo probe used two nuclear batteries to give it 570 watts of power. About enough to run a dorm room microwave, that initial output allowed Galileo to study Jupiter and its four large moons Io, Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. Space scientists operated Galileo for 14 years, eight of them spent around Jupiter. To safeguard potentially life-supporting Jovian moons from any stray Earthly bacteria stuck to the spacecraft, NASA plunged it into Jupiter's thick atmosphere at about 100,000 mph (161,ooo kph) in 2003. Cassini Saturn probe Carrying a whopping 72 lbs (33 kg) of nuclear material — the most Pu-238 of any spacecraft ever launched — Cassini faced heated public opposition before its 1997 launch toward Saturn. Some people were worried the material might spread during an accident in Earth's atmosphere during launch. They were also worried it might happen about two years after launch, when Cassini would make a speed-boosting gravity assist past Earth. However, an information campaign — which included details about the many safeguards built into nuclear batteries — plus additional safety tests eventually quelled most of the public's fears. Cassini's three nuclear batteries allowed it to beam back more data than any deep-space probe in history. Vimeo Embed: 800pxHeight: 450px Cassini arrived at Saturn on Christmas Day in 2004, dropped a lander named Huygens on the moon Titan, discovered moonlets in the planet's rings, recorded Saturn's polar auroras, zoomed through and "sniffed" the icy jets of the moon Enceladus, found evidence of a global subsurface ocean, and more.   But like Galileo at Jupiter, Cassini was to meet its doom on Saturn. On September 15, 2017, NASA plunged the robot into the gas giant to prevent it contaminating any nearby moons that might harbor life. The above "yarn ball" animation depicts all of Cassini's orbits from 2004 through 2017, including its final one. New Horizons Pluto probe New Horizons became the first-ever Earth visitor to the dwarf planet Pluto and its ensemble of moons. It took nine years of travel — a journey it could not have survived without Pu-238. The spacecraft launched in 2006 toward Pluto at roughly 36,000 mph (58,000 kph). That was far too fast to dip into orbit around Pluto, but the spacecraft squeezed in a solid 6 months of observations around its flyby date of July 14, 2015. New Horizons' single nuclear battery enabled observations of the dwarf planet and its five known moons — Charon, Nix, Hydra, P1 and P2. From revealing the oceanic origins of Pluto's newly discovered heart to its giant tail in space, the spacecraft's photos and discoveries have proven remarkable at every turn. Since departing the Pluto system, New Horizons has carried on in the Kuiper Belt to visit other trans-Neptunian objects. On New Year's Day in 2019, the spacecraft flew by an object called 486958 Arrokoth — also known as 2014 MU69 or Ultima Thule. The two-lobed, red-hued, and seemingly pancake-like space rock is one of the most pristine and ancient in the solar system, a sort of "planetary embryo" that shows what rocky worlds were built by. NASA is still determining which strange new planetary objects in deep-freeze that New Horizons will fly by in the 2020s and 2030s — follow-on missions that would be impossible without Pu-238. Curiosity Mars rover (Mars Science Laboratory) NASA's car-sized Curiosity rover landed safely on Mars on August 5, 2012 after surviving a harrowing descent known to engineers as the "7 minutes of terror." The robot is equipped with everything from a stereoscopic camera and a powerful microscope to a rock-zapping infrared laser and an X-ray spectrometer to perform advanced science on the red planet. Unlike previous wheeled rovers on Mars, which only used bits of Pu-238 to warm their circuit boards (and relied entirely on solar power), one 125-watt nuclear powers source feeds Curiosity. The power source should be strong enough to keep the rover rolling around Mars' mountainous Gale Crater for about 14 years. Curiosity harbors some of the last Pu-238 in NASA's old reserves. The spacecraft uses about 10.6 lbs (4.8 kg), leaving the space agency with roughly 37 lbs of usable plutonium. The DOE and NASA have worked to make new Pu-238 and refresh about 35 lbs (16 kg) of material that has decayed over the years. Mission managers say a new robot-automated process can help them make nearly one pound (400 grams) of new material a year, working toward 3.3 lbs (1.5 kilograms) per year starting in the mid-2020s. Though the price of Pu-238 is difficult to estimate due to shared infrastructure costs and varying output of the material, it likely costs thousands of dollars per gram, making it among the most expensive substances known by weight. Perseverance rover (Mars 2020) NASA used about one-third of what usable Pu-238 it had left to power the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission. The rover is almost identical to Curiosity, but it harbors a unique new tool set to explore Mars — and comes with the first interplanetary helicopter.   NASA will attempt to land the nuclear-powered rover on February 18, 2021, at this location in Jezero Crater, where the space agency will collect its first Martian soil samples for a future rocket launch to Earth. Dragonfly NASA's next Pu-238-powered mission will be the Dragonfly helicopter, which aims to explore the skies and surface of Saturn's moon Titan. Dragonfly is supposed to launch in 2026 and land in 2034. Once it lands, the drone will fly about five miles per excursion, racking up perhaps 100 miles total, to visually document the icy moon's features, sample its strange soils, and seek out possible signs of life on Titan's surface. Pu-238 will be essential not only to powering the vehicle, but also keeping its components functioning in the minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 179 degrees Celsius) cold.   Space scientists have dreamed up many more plutonium-powered missions, including a nuclear-powered boat for Saturn's moon Titan (which may have the ingredients for life) and a long-lived orbiter of Jupiter's moon Europa (which is thought to harbor an ocean bigger than all of Earth's watery territory). Though many have fallen by the wayside with technical, budgetary, and Pu-238 supply constraints, some may see resurrection as NASA and the DOE work together to reestablish American supplies of the unique nuclear material. This is an updated an expanded version of a story first published at Wired by Dave Mosher, the author and copyright holder.
SpaceX safely returned NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth in a Crew Dragon capsule on August 2 — completing the rocket company's first human journey. In a briefing after the landing, Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and COO, told Business Insider the mission went "surprisingly well." It wasn't without issues or quirks, though, such as errant boaters swarming the recovery site amid toxic propellant fumes detected outside the spacecraft. The astronauts said riding Crew Dragon through Earth's atmosphere was like being "inside of an animal." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. For the SpaceX and NASA officials overseeing the return of astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to earth, success wasn't just seeing a spaceship designed, built, and operated by SpaceX safely splash into the Gulf of Mexico. It was seeing the whole, history-making operation go off very nearly without a hitch.  "The greatest surprise is that this mission was as smooth as it is," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and COO, told Business Insider in a press briefing held a couple of hours after Demo-2's landing. But the denouement of the 65-day commercial test mission, called Demo-2, was not without surprises — some concerning, some just curious. Behnken and Hurley launched May 30 aboard SpaceX's 13.5-ton Crew Dragon spacecraft and returned to Earth Sunday in its crew capsule. By completing the mission, SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, not only checked off its first-ever flight of people, but also resurrected crewed spaceflight from US soil, ending a nine-year pause created by NASA's retirement of the space shuttle. NASA, which has funded Crew Dragon's development and launches with $2.7 billion since 2009, seemed just as awestruck as SpaceX. "It did not seem like this was the first NASA-SpaceX mission with astronauts on board," astronaut Mike Hopkins, who's slated to fly on SpaceX's next Crew Dragon mission, said in the briefing. Still, Shotwell called out some "foibles" seen during the mission, some of which were highly visible in footage of the mission, and others that were not. "This was a demonstration mission," Shotwell said. "This is the time that you go learn about these things, and we'll certainly be better prepared next time." A failed backup generator Once Behnken and Hurley got the OK to undock from the ISS and return home, SpaceX deployed fleets of ships into the Gulf of Mexico to recover the capsule and the men inside. But one of its main recovery ships, called "GO Navigator," hit a snag before it left port: Its backup generator failed. While it didn't materially impact the mission — the ship handled the pickup just fine with its main generator — NASA and SpaceX both want redundancy so that nothing can get in the way of scooping its finest from the sea. "Next time we're going to have two backup generators," Shotwell said. Toxic fumes outside Crew Dragon To stay in orbit — essentially continuous freefall — around Earth from 250 miles up, Crew Dragon must move at a speed of about 17,500 mph. Getting back to the ground requires slowing down, and to do that, the astronauts opened the nosecone of the ship and fired its thrusters against the direction of flight for more than 11 minutes. The propellant that powers those thrusters is a brownish substance called nitrogen tetroxide, or nitrogen peroxide. Although the hypergolic (spontaneously igniting) fuel packs a lot of punch in a small amount of space, it is also a potent oxidizer that, if inhaled at concentrations as low as 50 parts per million, can kill a person by causing their lungs to fill with fluid. After the Crew Dragon capsule splashed down near the coast of Pensacola, Florida, recovery crews detected some of the oxidizer outside the vehicle. So they purged the system and waited about 45 minutes for the fumes to blow away. Steve Stich, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program (which funds SpaceX as well as Boeing, which is also planning commercial flights), said during the briefing that the detected levels were "within limits" and recovery crews could have extracted the astronauts if needed. But they decided to play it safe. "We think there may be some mechanism where it's getting trapped into the service section from thruster firings during entry," Stich said. "We'll go figure out a way to handle it better on the next flight, perhaps starting with a purge as soon as we get on the vehicle." Space fans who put themselves and recovery operations 'in potential danger' When the astronauts landed, recovery boats weren't the only ones waiting to greet them: A flotilla of pleasure craft raced out to meet the spaceship, too. The scene alarmed the Coast Guard and mission managers, who were aware of the dangers of toxic fumes — especially to unwary spectators. The Coast Guard said it warned boaters multiple times ahead of the splashdown with radio alerts and physical warnings, according to a statement issued to CBS. Yet, because the landing site was in international waters, the Coast Guard lacked the legal authority and enough boats to do much about the problem. "Numerous boaters ignored the Coast Guard crews' requests and decided to encroach the area, putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger," the statement said. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said during Sunday's post-splashdown briefing that the crowd of boats "was not what we were anticipating." In the future, he added, NASA will utilize more resources to clear private boats from the ocean landing area. Behnken said Tuesday that he and Hurley "had absolutely no awareness" of the unwelcome flotilla of boaters after landing, but had a message for them. "Just a word to the wise for folks who have ideas of coming that close again in the future," Behnken said: "We take extreme precautions to make sure it is safe, and we do that for a reason." Glitchy iPad Minis Most of the apparent issues the astronauts experienced were not nearly as serious as the toxic fumes and errant boaters, and some fell into the category of spaceflight curiosities. For example, after undocking and flying away from the ISS, Behnken paged SpaceX's mission control center in Hawthorne, California for some tech support. He reported experiencing issues with an iPad Mini loaded with apps that the astronauts use as digital manuals for their spaceship and mission. "The timeline application on my tablet gives me an error message that Safari cannot open the page," Behnken said, noting the app said it couldn't load the app due to not being connected to the internet. The error appeared to be a caching issue, according to Space Explored, and occurred after SpaceX tried to beam updated mission timeline data to the tablet. Riding back to Earth 'inside of animal' And while both Behnken and Hurley had each flown to space twice before Demo-2, those flights were aboard NASA's space shuttle: a 100-ton orbiter with wings that landed on runways. It made for a much different ride than a 10.5-ton, gumdrop-shaped capsule plunging into water. As Business Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported, the landing experience — though they were ultimately pleased with it — caught the astronauts off-guard. "I would say it was more than what Doug and I expected," Behnken said in a press briefing on Tuesday. "I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired." Behnken said the ship "came alive" and "it felt like we were inside of an animal" as it fired thrusters to keep a proper orientation during atmospheric reentry. He added: "It doesn't sound like a machine — it sounds like an animal." The astronauts also said the splashdown felt "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat," Behnken said. Though not problems per se, the astronauts' impressions of landing will help future crews know what sensations to expect as they slow down from 17,500 mph to bobbing on the ocean's surface. 'You can never get complacent with a space vehicle' SpaceX is now poring over a mountain of mission data with NASA "just to make sure that there's nothing untoward," Stich said during the briefing. He added that aerospace engineers from both sides will be paying special attention to telemetry data related to undocking, spaceflight, atmospheric reentry, and parachute performance. The goal is to certify Crew Dragon for routine spaceflight, possibly within the next couple of months. That way operational missions can proceed, NASA can make the most use of its $100 billion investment in the ISS, and private passengers like Tom Cruise can, too. Based on an early look, no SpaceX or NASA officials flagged any showstoppers. Bridenstine said the spaceship was "in pretty good shape" heading into its review, which seeks to reuse the capsule on future flights. But Hurley — a Marine Corps test pilot — said Tuesday that he believes Crew Dragon needs a few more missions before he'd consider the vehicle "completely tested" and safe for flying civilians. "The space business, like a lot of those technically challenging businesses, is not forgiving," Hurley said. "Don't just assume, because the last flight went perfectly, that the next flight is going to go perfectly. You have to do that rigor and that analysis and that attention to detail." He added: "You can never get complacent with a space vehicle." Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed reporting. Have a story or inside information to share about the spaceflight industry? Send Dave Mosher an email at [email protected] or a Twitter direct message at @davemosher. More secure communication options are listed here.SEE ALSO: Trump falsely said NASA 'was closed and dead' before he was president and appeared to take credit for a private SpaceX launch DON'T MISS: New video shows SpaceX's astronaut crew plummeting through Earth's atmosphere, floating under parachutes, and landing in the ocean Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
SpaceX returned two NASA astronauts to Earth on Sunday after flying them to the International Space Station. The mission, called Demo-2, flew the first crewed US spacecraft since the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011. SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship is a product of NASA's Commercial Crew program, a partnership between the space agency and private companies. Boeing is also building a spaceship as part of the program, but SpaceX's progressed faster. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX and NASA celebrated a major milestone on Sunday: the completion of the world's first crewed commercial spaceflight. The company's Crew Dragon spaceship carried two NASA astronauts into orbit and docked to the space station two months ago, then returned on Sunday in a fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere. The mission, called Demo-2, was the last major test before NASA certifies the Crew Dragon to carry more people into space. "This day heralds a new age of space exploration," Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO, said during a NASA TV broadcast after the splashdown, adding, "I'm not very religious, but I prayed for this one." Since NASA ended its space-shuttle program in 2011, the agency has relied exclusively on Russia to ferry its astronauts to and from orbit in Soyuz spacecraft. But those seats have gotten increasingly expensive, and the world's space agencies have had no alternative for launching and returning astronauts, even when technical glitches have arisen. That's what spurred NASA to launch its Commercial Crew program, which was designed to facilitate the development of new American-made spacecraft. The program put private firms in competition for billions of dollars' worth of government contracts. SpaceX and Boeing came out on top, and SpaceX's spaceship passed its tests and became ready for astronauts first. Here's how NASA came to rely on the two companies to resurrect American spaceflight.SEE ALSO: 27 epic images show how SpaceX made history by flying NASA astronauts to and from the space station DON'T MISS: Telescope video captured SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship attached to space station, 250 miles above Earth NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are now the first people ever to fly in a commercial spacecraft. Both men are spaceflight veterans and were deeply involved in SpaceX's efforts to design its Crew Dragon spaceship. "This has been a quite an odyssey the last five, six, seven, eight years," Hurley said during a NASA live broadcast after the recent landing. "To be where we are now — the first crewed flight of Dragon — is just unbelievable." Crew Dragon launched into space with the two astronauts inside atop a Falcon 9 rocket on May 30. The mission, called Demo-2, was a demonstrate meant to show that the launch system and spaceship could safely transport people. The next day, the capsule docked to the International Space Station, where it stayed for two months. Aboard the space station, Behnken and Hurley conducted science experiments, routine maintenance, and a couple of spacewalks. On Saturday, Behnken and Hurley climbed back into the capsule, which they'd named Endeavour, and undocked from the space station. The next day, they survived a fiery plunge back to Earth. "It felt like we were inside of an animal," Behnken said in a briefing on Tuesday. Parachutes slowed the fall, and Endeavour landed in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. ET on Sunday, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Recovery teams helped the astronauts out of the capsule and gave them a medical check. The men were fine but found it difficult to stand; that's normal for ISS astronauts, since their bodies become accustomed to floating in space. Prior to the Demo-2 mission, the last US rocket-and-spaceship system to carry astronauts to and from space was Atlantis, NASA's last space shuttle. It launched and landed in July 2011. After 135 shuttle missions, NASA retired the program so it could direct funds towards long-term missions to the moon and, eventually, Mars. Since then, NASA has relied on Russia's Soyuz system to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Soyuz has been the only human-rated spacecraft that can ferry people to and from the $150 billion, football-field-size orbiting laboratory.  Russia has nearly quadrupled its prices for NASA over a decade. In 2008, a single round-trip flight for a NASA astronaut cost about $22 million; by 2018, that price had soared to about $81 million. As of late last year the price is about $85 million, according to CNN. Additionally, two recent incidents raised concerns about the reliability and safety of Soyuz rockets. In August 2018, a Soyuz began leaking air into space while attached to the space station. A small hole was found and investigated by cosmonauts. Russian authorities think the hole came from a manufacturing accident with a drill that was hastily covered up. Then that October, a Soyuz rocket failed during launch. The space capsule, which was carrying one American and one Russian, automatically jettisoned away, and they walked away uninjured. Despite these issues, the world's space agencies had no other options for getting their astronauts to and from the space station. NASA's Commercial Crew Program has been developing alternative launch systems since 2010. The competition asked private companies to build new astronaut-ready spacecraft. Once the program is complete, the agency will have doled out more than $8 billion in awards and contracts over about a decade. "We don't want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said ahead of the Demo-2 landing. From dozens of hopefuls, two contenders made it through the competition: SpaceX and Boeing. Both of their spacecraft are designed to fly up to seven passengers to and from Earth's orbit. SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, designed the Crew Dragon, a 14,000-pound spaceship that's made to be reusable. The vehicle is SpaceX's biggest spaceflight achievement yet, but it's just the beginning of Musk's ambitions. "This is hopefully the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars, of life becoming multiplanetary, a base on the moon, and expanding beyond Earth," he told reporters after the Demo-2 launch. Boeing, a century-old aerospace company, created the CST-100 Starliner, also a reusable capsule. It's made to land back on Earth using airbags, rather than splashing into the ocean. Before Boeing launches astronauts on the the CST-100 Starliner, it will re-do an uncrewed flight test, since the first attempt unearthed critical issues. In total, NASA selected nine astronauts to fly the Boeing and SpaceX spaceships on the demonstration missions and first official crewed missions. The group includes former space-shuttle flyers, ex-military test pilots, rookies, and — critically — four astronauts (including Behnken and Hurley) who'd been testing and providing feedback on the commercial ships for years. Before humans could fly in the new spacecraft, NASA required a robust series of test flights and demonstrations. In one such test, the Crew Dragon flew to the space station without a crew in March 2019 — making it the first commercial vehicle to ever do so. In that mission, called Demo-1, the spaceship launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, then linked up to the International Space Station for five days. The only passengers were a crash-test dummy named Ripley, 400 pounds of cargo, and a fuzzy toy Earth. Officials declared the test a complete success after the capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Bridenstine described the successful mission as "the dawn of a new era in American human spaceflight, and really in spaceflight for the entire world." But later demos hit snags. SpaceX did not pass an April 2019 test that simulated a parachute failure. The test was meant to examine what would happen if one parachute didn't deploy during a flight. SpaceX tried to simulate the situation, leaving only three parachutes to break the fall. Unfortunately, the other parachutes didn't properly deploy, either. However, the Crew Dragon parachutes eventually received approval after undergoing 27 rounds of testing. They performed as planned when Behnken and Hurley landed. William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations at the time, told Spaceflight Now that similar problems arose during Boeing's parachute tests. That same month, a Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a test-firing on the ground. NASA and SpaceX both welcomed the surprise failure. The mysterious explosion occurred as the capsule fired the large engines designed to help it escape a failing rocket. "Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test," SpaceX said on the day of the failure. Kathy Lueders, who managed the Commercial Crew Program and now leads NASA's Human Spaceflight Office, called the explosion "a huge gift for us" in terms of making the ship safer to fly. Boeing launched its Starliner capsule toward the space station for the first time in December 2019. Nobody was inside — just a mannequin named Rosie. There was also some food, Christmas presents, and other cargo for astronauts aboard the space station. But the Starliner suffered a major glitch with a clock about 31 minutes after launch, causing it to veer off-course. To save the uncrewed ship from total failure, Boeing skipped its docking with the space station — the main objective of the mission — and used the remaining propellant to stabilize the capsule's orbit and get it home. On its early return to Earth, the capsule relied on impact-absorbing airbags to land safely in the desert. A NASA safety panel revealed in February that the Starliner had also suffered a second software issue, which ground controllers patched in the middle of the test flight. Boeing and NASA officials said the error could have caused a collision between two units of the spacecraft: the crew module and the service module. The error prompted NASA to launch a larger investigation into Boeing's coding and culture.   NASA and Boeing have decided to re-do that uncrewed mission before the company launches its first astronauts. The re-do is planned for October or November, according to The Washington Post, but officials have declined to offer a timeline for the Starliner's first astronaut flight. Before they could carry people, both spaceships also had to prove they can jettison astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of a rocket-launch failure. Such failures have happened to both the Space Shuttle and Soyuz systems, so having an escape plan is essential. Boeing passed the ground test of the Starliner's abort system in November 2019. The capsule rocketed nearly a mile into the air, then parachuted back to the ground. The entire flight lasted 1.5 minutes. SpaceX demonstrated its escape system in January, by turning off one of its Falcon 9 rockets mid-flight while a Crew Dragon was perched on top. The rocket was traveling at around twice the speed of sound when SpaceX shut it down. At that moment, the Crew Dragon detached, fired its own thrusters, and sped away from the soon-to-explode rocket. The ship landed in the ocean under four giant parachutes. "It went as well as one could possibly expect," Musk said of the escape-system demonstration.     Overall, the Commercial Crew program has run years past its deadline. Boeing and SpaceX were supposed to have their systems certified by 2017, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. "Most of us are just way past ready for this to happen. It has taken a lot longer than anybody thought," Wayne Hale, a retired NASA space-shuttle program manager, told Business Insider in January. Eventually, a round-trip seat on the Crew Dragon is expected to cost about $55 million. A seat on Starliner will cost about $90 million. NASA has contracted six round-trip flights on Crew Dragon. Behnken's wife, Megan McArthur, will pilot the second one. "What we did for Bob, I think we can do an even better job for Megan," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said after the Demo-2 splashdown. NASA also plans to open the space station to tourists for $35,000 per night. Last year NASA announced it would allow two private astronauts per year to stay up to 30 days each on the space station.   Holly Secon contributed reporting. Do you have a story or inside information to share about the spaceflight industry? Send Dave Mosher an email at [email protected] or a Twitter direct message at @davemosher. More secure communication options are listed here.
SpaceX on Tuesday launched and landed a vehicle called SN5, which is a full-scale prototype of a planned Mars rocket ship called Starship. On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump wrongfully appeared to take credit for the privately developed vehicle's creation or launch. Trump also shared falsehoods about NASA, which spaceflight experts pointed out and corrected. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX on Tuesday night launched an early prototype of a Starship rocket hundreds of feet into the air, hovered it across the beachside launch site, and then landed it on a concrete pad. The full-scale vehicle, called Starship SN5 (for serial number 5), looked more like a flying grain silo or beer can than an early version of a Mars-bound rocket. Still, the feat represents a key step toward SpaceX founder Elon Musk's dream of creating a fully reusable space vehicle that can reach, return from, and help populate the Red Planet. In Wednesday tweet rife with falsehoods, US President Donald Trump reshared a NASASpaceFlight video of SN5's flight — and appeared to take credit for SpaceX's flight by insinuating it was part of a NASA program. "NASA was Closed & Dead until I got it going again. Now it is the most vibrant place of its kind on the Planet...And we have Space Force to go along with it. We have accomplished more than any Administration in first 3 1/2 years. Sorry, but it all doesn't happen with Sleepy Joe!" Trump claimed. After the tweet, numerous spaceflight journalists and industry experts pointed out that Trump was far from the mark. Jeff Foust, a Space News senior writer and aerospace analyst who's followed the industry for decades, tweeted the following response to the president's claims: "Fact check:- NASA was neither closed nor dead at the start of the current administration.- Many recent NASA successes have their origins in prior administrations.- The Starship test the president is retweeting has nothing to do with NASA; it's a private effort by SpaceX." Per Foust's first point, NASA has been operating continuously since its creation on October 1, 1958. With his second bullet point, Foust was referring to spaceflight commercialization work by the Bush and Obama administrations that preceded Trump by more than a decade. In 2004, President George W. Bush started a commercial cargo-spaceship development program at NASA. The goal was to bolster cargo transportation capabilities to the International Space Station ahead of the 2011 retirement of NASA's space shuttle program. That effort, which funded SpaceX to develop an uncrewed vehicle called Dragon, preceded and informed a follow-on NASA effort called Commercial Crew. President Barack Obama first funded the program in 2009 and authorized funding until he left office in 2016. That funding enabled SpaceX (and Boeing) to develop a crewed vehicle. That effort culminated in SpaceX's most recent achievement: resurrecting crewed spaceflight from American soil. Specifically, the company leaned on $2.7 billion, most of which was awarded by 2014, to develop its Crew Dragon spaceship. The vehicle launched in May with two astronauts on board and landed in August, successfully completing its first spaceflight with people. "This does a disservice to the nearly 17,000 dedicated women and men of @NASA," Phil Larson, a former SpaceX employee, tweeted in response to Trump's claims. SpaceX has some funding and assistance from NASA for Starship development, such as orbital refilling of fuel tanks. The company also was awarded a $100 million contract to develop a Starship moon-landing system. However, to date SpaceX has predominantly and privately raised hundreds of millions of dollars to fund Starship's development. Musk has also ordered many of the rocket company's thousands of employees to prioritize the vehicle's development effort at SpaceX's commercial launch site in Boca Chica, Texas — a private, non-governmental facility. The Biden campaign declined to comment on the matter and instead provided a prior statement from the Democratic candidate about the splashdown of Demo-2, congratulating those involved. Spokespeople for the White House and SpaceX did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider. A NASA spokesperson said the agency is looking into the matter. SEE ALSO: 3 Apollo astronauts say they support Trump's plan to land people on the moon — but NASA would need to make two big changes DON'T MISS: A boat flying a Trump flag approached SpaceX's spaceship after the astronauts landed. NASA promised to 'do a better job' next time. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley completed their mission on SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship when they landed in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. The spaceship's scorching-hot fall through Earth's atmosphere, parachute deployments, and splashdown went as planned. From inside the Crew Dragon, Behnken said the return trip felt like being "inside of an animal," with violent jolts along the way. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley plunged through Earth's atmosphere at 25 times the speed of sound on Sunday, slowing just in time to land safely off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. The splashdown concluded their two-month mission flying SpaceX's new spaceship — the Crew Dragon — to the International Space Station and back, making them the first people to ever fly aboard a commercial spacecraft. Each step in their return trip to Earth went as planned. But inside the spaceship, the astronauts said, the flight didn't feel as smooth as it may have looked. "The landing was — I would say it was more than what Doug and I expected," Behnken said in a press briefing on Tuesday. "I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired." Though they were pleased with the process, Behnken added, "it felt like we were inside of an animal." Of the mission in general, he added, the astronauts will have suggestions to help SpaceX and NASA make the Crew Dragon "a little bit more comfortable" for future astronauts. The pivotal moments of the landing process — the capsule separating from its trunk, the parachutes deploying as they approached the Gulf of Mexico — felt "very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat," Behnken said. The first of those jolts came when the capsule jettisoned its trunk — a lower section outfitted with fuel tanks, solar panels, and other hardware, which the astronauts no longer needed. The ride only got bumpier from there. 'It doesn't sound like a machine' Once they started edging into the atmosphere, Crew Dragon "came alive," Behnken said, firing its thruster to stay on course. The astronauts could hear the atmosphere rumbling around them. "As the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that that shimmy in your body," Behnken said. "So we could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws." The spacecraft fired its thrusters continuously, pushing itself further into the atmosphere. Behnken said he recorded some audio of the sounds, which got louder as they descended. "It doesn't sound like a machine, it sounds like an animal," he said. That's when he felt the capsule heating up, and the force of Earth's gravity pulling on them for the first time in two months. He said it felt like being in a centrifuge. That strong force restricted their movements, so they didn't get to crane their necks to look out the windows below their feet. If they had, they might have seen the layer of scorching-hot plasma that was wrapping around the spacecraft — a "really thin, pinkish hue," as Hurley described it from his prior experience on the space shuttle. Then the parachutes deployed, giving them "a pretty significant jolt," Behnken said. A few minutes later, the capsule landed in the ocean. "We felt the splash and we saw it splash up over the windows," Behnken said. "It was just a great relief, I think, for both of us at that point."SEE ALSO: New video shows SpaceX's astronaut crew plummeting through Earth's atmosphere, floating under parachutes, and landing in the ocean Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship splashed into the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday, returning NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley from a high-stakes mission to the space station. The demonstration mission resurrected US human spaceflight after a nine-year hiatus. The astronauts were the first people to fly in a commercial spaceship. Here are 27 incredible photos from their journey. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX and NASA made history on Sunday when a toasted, gumdrop-shaped spaceship splashed into the Gulf of Mexico. The Crew Dragon capsule — designed by SpaceX with funding from NASA — was returning astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to Earth after an unprecedented mission to the International Space Station. It was the first time a private company had taken humans into space. But this was just a demonstration mission. Its success tees NASA up to ferry astronauts regularly to and from the space station aboard the Crew Dragon.  "This day heralds a new age of space exploration," Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, said in a briefing after the splashdown, adding, "I'm not very religious, but I prayed for this one." Here are the best photos from the launch, the astronauts' time in space, and their fiery plunge back to Earth.SEE ALSO: NASA astronaut Megan McArthur, whose husband just flew on SpaceX's Crew Dragon, will pilot the spaceship in the spring DON'T MISS: Meet Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, 2 'badass' astronauts, engineers, and 'space dads' who flew SpaceX's Crew Dragon to orbit and back Behnken and Hurley were the first people ever to fly a commercial spacecraft. Their mission, called Demo-2, revived the US's ability to launch and fly its own astronauts, which it lost after the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. For the last nine years, NASA relied on increasingly expensive Russian Soyuz rockets to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station On May 30, Behnken and Hurley climbed into the Crew Dragon and launched into space atop one of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets. They had first attempted the launch three days earlier, but cloudy weather made it unsafe for the rocket to fly. On both launch days, the astronauts were helped into their spacesuits at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The men said goodbye to their families. Both are married to astronauts, and they each have a young son. NASA TV microphones picked up Behnken telling his son: "Be good for mom. Make her life easy." The astronauts couldn't hug their families because they had just spent two weeks in quarantine to ensure they didn't accidentally carry COVID-19 to the space station. Behnken and Hurley had been working with SpaceX for five years as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The program is NASA's solution to the void left by the space shuttles . It funded both SpaceX and Boeing to build human-grade commercial spaceships, but SpaceX got to its crewed flight first. In a press briefing ahead of the launch, Behnken told Business Insider that he and Hurley had gained more insight into the ways the mission could fail "than any crew has in recent history, just in terms of understanding the different scenarios that are at play." Inside Crew Dragon before they launched, NASA's livestream showed the astronauts closing their eyes and taking deep breaths as they waited for the final countdown. NASA had estimated a 1-in-276 chance that the mission would be fatal. Behnken said that they were "really comfortable" with those odds. The rocket lifted off at 3:22 p.m. ET, then the Crew Dragon capsule separated from the body of the Falcon 9. On Earth, teams from SpaceX and NASA celebrated the success. "I'm really quite overcome with emotion," Musk told reporters. "I've spent 18 years working toward this goal, so it's hard to believe that it's happened," Musk added. "This is hopefully the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars, of life becoming multiplanetary, a base on the moon, and expanding beyond Earth." Once they were safely orbiting Earth, Behnken and Hurley named their Crew Dragon capsule "Endeavour" — a tribute to the last space shuttle ever built. The next day, Endeavour opened its nose cone and docked to the space station. After a hatch-opening procedure that took about two hours, Behnken and Hurley floated onto the ISS. Their new crewmates — NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner — were waiting to welcome them. Upon arrival, they displayed a trophy for SpaceX: a US flag that the last space shuttle crew left on the ISS. It waited nine years for NASA's next human launch from US soil. They effectively claimed victory for SpaceX in a game of capture the flag that Barack Obama started when he developed the Commercial Crew Program. The spaceship remained docked to the ISS for the next two months. It was designed to survive up to 110 days in the harsh environment of space. While on the ISS, Behnken and Hurley worked on science experiments that NASA conducts in microgravity. Behnken and Cassidy went on a couple of spacewalks together. They did routine maintenance outside the station: replacing batteries, installing new equipment, and removing old parts. Then came the high-stakes final leg of the Demo-2 mission: coming home. Behnken and Hurley crawled back into the Crew Dragon on Saturday, August 1, and undocked from the space station. After a night's rest for the astronauts (and several hours of maneuvering the spaceship), the Endeavour capsule fired its thrusters and pushed itself into Earth's atmosphere on Sunday.   Musk had previously said the blistering, 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit plunge through Earth's atmosphere was his "biggest concern." That's because of the capsule's asymmetric design, which is necessary for the emergency-escape system that jettisons the capsule away if a launching rocket fails in midair.  "If you rotate too much, then you could potentially catch the plasma in the super Draco escape thruster pods," Musk told Aviation Week's Irene Klotz in May, a few days before the launch. "We've looked at this six ways to Sunday, so it's not that I think this will fail. It's just that I worry a bit that it is asymmetric on the backshell." At the end of the astronauts' descent, parachutes slowed the fall. The capsule landed in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. ET on Sunday, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. SpaceX and NASA teams in speedboats rushed to recover the capsule and pull the astronauts out — but civilian onlookers in their own boats swarmed the scene, too. "Maybe next time we shouldn't announce our landing zone," the SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said during NASA's live feed of the landing. Even cosmonaut Ivan Vagner — the astronauts' former crewmate on the International Space Station — could see the boats speeding toward the capsule from 250 miles above Earth. Tweet Embed: // [email protected] и @Astro_Doug, I congratulate you on your successful return to Earth! A few minutes after landing, the ISS flew over the #CrewDragon splashdown site in the Gulf of Mexico. In a statement to CBS, the Coast Guard said it warned boaters multiple times ahead of the splashdown with radio alerts and physical warnings, yet lacked an order to legally enforce a hazard zone. "Numerous boaters ignored the Coast Guard crews' requests and decided to encroach the area, putting themselves and those involved in the operation in potential danger," the statement said. Some of the boats passed close to the capsule, including one with a passenger waving a Trump flag. NASA officials said this was dangerous for the astronauts and the onlookers.   That's because the Endeavour capsule can be shrouded in poisonous fumes after it plummets through Earth's atmosphere.  The crowd "was not what we were anticipating," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a briefing after the splashdown.  "That's not something that is good," he added. "We need to make sure that we're warning people not to get close to the spacecraft in the future."   After clearing away the unauthorized boats, the recovery team lifted the toasted capsule out of the water. The team picked up a dangerous gas around the capsule called nitrogen tetroxide. They waited for it to clear before opening the spaceship's hatch. The recovery team then helped Behnken and Hurley out of their seats and onto stretchers — a standard procedure for astronauts post-landing — so they could get immediate medical evaluations. The men were fine but found it difficult to stand after the splashdown. That's normal for ISS astronauts, since their bodies become accustomed to floating in space and suddenly have to work much harder to move against Earth's gravity. A helicopter took Behnken and Hurley to dry land. "This has been a quite an odyssey the last five, six, seven, eight years," Hurley told team members and press shortly after the landing. "When the space shuttles retired, when Doug took his final flight to wrap that up, I think it was a sad day for us," Behnken said. "There's something special about having that capability to launch and bring your own astronauts home." Dave Mosher contributed reporting.
NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley just completed a crucial test flight of SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship. The men splashed the space capsule into the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. ET off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, following a risky plunge through Earth's atmosphere. NASA's administrator said the mission marks "the next era in human spaceflight," since the agency is now poised to purchase flights from SpaceX. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said after the mission's launch that he once doubted the company would ever see this day. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX just achieved a feat that even CEO Elon Musk thought improbable when he founded the rocket company in 2002: flying people to and from space. On Sunday afternoon, NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely careened back to Earth after a 27-million-mile mission in orbit around the planet. The men flew in SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship, landing the cone-shaped capsule at 2:48 p.m. ET in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, Florida. Ahead of the landing, the crew undocked from the $150 billion International Space Station, where they'd spent 63 days, then performed a series of maneuvers to return home to their families. The capsule handily survived a blistering 3,500-degree-Fahrenheit return through Earth's atmosphere, a high-stakes parachute deployment, and the final splashdown. Shortly after 4 p.m. ET, a SpaceX and NASA recovery crew pulled the astronauts from their toasted ship.  "Thanks for doing the most difficult part and the most important part of human spaceflight: sending us into orbit and bringing us home safely," Behnken said shortly before leaving the spaceship, which he and Hurley named Endeavour. "Thank you again for the good ship Endeavour." "It's absolutely been an honor and a pleasure to work with you, from the entire SpaceX team," a capsule communicator responded from mission control at SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California. SpaceX privately designed, built, and operated the vehicle with about $2.7 billion in contracts from NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The money helped SpaceX create its newfound spaceflight capability and is funding about half a dozen missions — including Behnken and Hurley's demonstration flight, Demo-2, which launched on May 30. With Demo-2's completion, SpaceX has put an end to a nine-year drought of crewed spaceflight from US soil. The company also resurrected NASA's ability to reach the ISS, where the agency hopes to ramp up work to help it return humans to the moon and eventually reach Mars. The mission's end likely brings SpaceX just weeks from a NASA certification of its Crew Dragon for regular flights of astronauts — and private citizens. "We don't want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said during a NASA TV broadcast ahead of the landing. He added: "This is the next era in human spaceflight, where NASA gets to be the customer. We want to be a strong customer, we want to be a great partner. But we don't want to be the only ones that are operating with humans in space." In a news briefing following the landing, officials and astronauts remarked on how uneventful the astronaut's return flight was (except for a few surprises on the ground, such as civilian boats pulling up to the space capsule). "It did not seem like this was the first NASA SpaceX mission with astronauts on board," Michael Hopkins, a NASA astronaut who's slated to fly on SpaceX's next mission, Crew-1, said. "It seemed to go extremely smoothly." Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and CEO, said even SpaceX leadership was a bit taken aback. "I think we're surprised — minorly surprised, but obviously incredibly pleased — that this went as smoothly as it did," she said. American astronauts, rockets, and spaceships launching from US soil Before Demo-2, the United States hadn't launched humans into space from American soil since July 2011, when NASA flew its final space shuttle mission. During the following nine years, NASA had to rely on Russia's Soyuz launch system to ferry its astronauts to and from the space station. But that became increasingly expensive. Over time, Russia charged more and more per round-trip ticket for each NASA astronaut. The cost rose from about $21 million in 2008 (before the shuttle was retired) to more than $90 million per seat on a planned flight for October. A seat on SpaceX's Crew Dragon, meanwhile, is projected to cost $55 million (not including NASA's $2.7 billion in funding), according to NASA's inspector general. Also, with just one to two seats for NASA astronauts aboard each Soyuz flight — compared to the space shuttle's seven — the arrangement limited American use of the ISS, which has housed as many as 13 people at once (though space-station crews are typically six people). Most concerning to mission managers, the arrangement left NASA reliant on a single launch system. That became especially worrisome when high-profile issues arose with Soyuz over the past few years, including a mysterious leak and a rocket-launch failure that forced an emergency landing. After these incidents, NASA and other space agencies had nowhere else to turn.  With SpaceX's successful Demo-2 flight — and the upcoming test flights of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spaceship — that insecure footing for US astronauts is now in the rearview mirror. "This is the culmination of a dream," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told "CBS This Morning" ahead of the mission's launch in May. "This is a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal." In addition to giving NASA better access to the space station, having a spacecraft and launch system enables the agency to use the space station's microgravity environment to conduct more science experiments — in pharmaceuticals, materials science, astronomy, medicine, and more. "The International Space Station is a critical capability for the United States of America. Having access to it is also critical," Bridenstine said during a briefing on May 1. "We are moving forward very rapidly with this program that is so important to our nation and, in fact, to the entire world." Demo-2 brings SpaceX one step closer to the moon and Mars With the completion of Demo-2, SpaceX has also gained operational experience flying people to and from space for the first time. That's hugely important to Musk, who has big plans for SpaceX. The company plans to fly tourists into space: In February, SpaceX announced that it had sold four seats through a spaceflight tourism company called Space Adventures. Then in March, news broke that the company Axiom Space — led in part by a former ISS mission manager at NASA — had also signed a deal with SpaceX. There's even a flight of actor Tom Cruise aboard Crew Dragon in the works — part of a plan to film a movie aboard the ISS. But Musk's primary aim is to launch people around the moon, later land others on the lunar surface, then move on to establish Martian cities. His ultimate goal is to put 1 million settlers on the red planet. NASA shares some of Musk's ambitions to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars. Sending astronauts to the space station aboard the Crew Dragon represents a major milestone toward those goals. Bridenstine also said  that he'd eventually like to see entire commercial space stations in the future.  "The next big thing is we need commercial space stations themselves. And in order to create the market for commercial space stations, we have to have these transformational capabilities," Bridenstine said ahead of the landing. 'I doubted us, too' During a briefing following the launch of Demo-2, Business Insider asked Musk if he had a message for those who ever doubted him or the company. "To be totally frank, I doubted us, too. I thought we had maybe — when starting SpaceX — maybe had a 10% chance of reaching orbit. So to those who doubted us I was like, 'Well, I think you're probably right,'" Musk said. He added: "It took us took us four attempts just to get to orbit with Falcon 1 ... People told me this joke: How do you make a small fortune in the rocket industry? 'You start with a large one' is the punch line." Musk said SpaceX "just barely made it there," adding, "So hey, I think those doubters were — their probability assessment was correct. But fortunately, fate has smiled upon us and brought us to this day." This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published at 2:48 p.m. ET on August 2, 2020. Do you have a story or inside information to share about the spaceflight industry? Send Dave Mosher an email at [email protected] or a Twitter direct message at @davemosher. More secure communication options are listed here.SEE ALSO: Why SpaceX's astronaut mission for NASA is such a big deal for Elon Musk's rocket company and the US as a whole DON'T MISS: SpaceX is about to win a high-stakes game of capture the flag that Barack Obama started 9 years ago Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US