SEVERE WX : Freeze Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

SpaceX's Crew Dragon took flight in historic mission. What's next?

In an early interview with CNN, SpaceX founder Elon Musk explained how he could work with NASA and his vision for the future of space travel.

Posted: Jun 2, 2020 6:40 AM
Updated: Jun 2, 2020 6:40 AM

When Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, the company's assigned goal was to get humans into space.

Now that NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley have made it aboard the International Space Station, Musk is breathing a sigh of relief that his company's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket performed successfully during this weekend mission. Now SpaceX can officially consider itself the first-ever company to send humans into orbit aboard a privately owned spacecraft.

But it's not over yet. Critical weeks of safety and technical reviews of the spacecraft lie ahead before NASA will officially designate Crew Dragon as an "operational" vehicle. Then, another Crew Dragon spacecraft must be deemed ready for the next mission, dubbed Crew-1, that will carry four more astronauts to the space station: NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Japan's Soichi Noguchi.

NASA is hoping to launch Crew-1 in August.

The mission Behnken and Hurley began over the weekend won't be considered a success until they return safely to Earth, but their mission is expected to last up to 110 days, and the journey home will be just as perilous as the ride to orbit.

Crew Dragon's debut, however, is a significant milestone for SpaceX and NASA, and this mission was one of the biggest items both organizations needed to check off the list before turning to larger ambitions.

Access to the International Space Station

The United States hasn't launched its own astronauts into space since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011. Since then, NASA's astronauts have had to travel to Russia and train on the country's Soyuz spacecraft. Those seats have cost NASA as much as $90 million each.

But the space agency chose not to create its own replacement for the Shuttle. Instead, it asked the private sector to develop a spacecraft capable of safely ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station — a controversial decision considering that NASA had never before outsourced the development of a human-rated spacecraft. The thinking was that companies could drive down costs and spur innovation, and NASA would have more time and resources to focus on exploring deeper into the solar system.

In 2014, NASA awarded two contracts: $4.2 billion to Boeing to build its Starliner vehicle, and $2.6 billion to SpaceX, which planned to create a crew worthy version of the Dragon spacecraft that was already flying cargo to and from the International Space Station. NASA had already put money toward SpaceX's development of the Dragon spacecraft used for transporting cargo, and the space agency has said Boeing received more money because it was designing the Starliner from scratch.

Boeing recently suffered a significant setback when a Starliner capsule malfunctioned during a key uncrewed test flight. But if SpaceX can safely return Behnken and Hurley, it'll be a major win for NASA, which has been pushing for more commercial partnerships.

At times, delays with development of both the Crew Dragon and Boeing's Starliner capsule have threatened to leave the US portion of the ISS understaffed.

But, after years of anticipation, Crew Dragon capsules are poised to begin making regular trips to and from the space station, allowing NASA to take more control over staffing the ISS. The space agency hopes to have more hands on deck, creating more opportunities for conducting scientific experiments and maintaining ISS operations.

Because the Crew Dragon program is technically owned and operated by SpaceX, the company can even explore opportunities to take tourists or other non-astronauts to space.

Actor Tom Cruise, for example, is working with NASA to eventually film a movie aboard the ISS, the space agency says.

Artemis: NASA's next moon mission

NASA's ambitions extend far beyond the ISS, which orbits about 250 miles above Earth.

And last year, Vice President Mike Pence directed the space agency to drastically accelerate its plan to return boots to the lunar surface by later this decade. NASA is now pushing toward a 2024 deadline.

SpaceX wound up being a part of that effort, called the Artemis Program, too. SpaceX proposed a new variant of its Dragon capsule, Dragon XL, that could haul cargo all the way out to a space station that NASA planned to put in orbit around the moon. And last month, SpaceX was among several companies tapped to develop lunar landers, or vehicles that can ferry astronauts from NASA's Orion spacecraft down to the lunar surface.

For the latter task, SpaceX proposed using the Starship system — a spaceship and rocket that the company is in the early stages of developing at remote facilities in South Texas.

Musk has spent a significant amount of time overseeing that work in Texas lately. And the latest iterations of Starship prototypes haven't survived very far into the testing process.

The latest Starship test article, called SN4, exploded during ground tests in Boca Chica, Texas, last week.

SpaceX's Mars ambitions

Musk has given every indication that SpaceX will pour significant resources into Starship development in the months and years ahead.

The company is building a multibilllion-dollar telecom business, Starlink, that SpaceX hopes will help fund development of the Starship program, and the company continues to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from private investors.

The origin of Starship, after all, is not with NASA or its Artemis Program. Starship is at the core of SpaceX's stated founding mission to establish a colony of humans on Mars.

Technologically speaking, that milestone is likely still a long way from reality.

But Musk, speaking to reporters after Saturday's Crew Dragon launch, reaffirmed his commitment to Mars as he breathlessly celebrated Hurley and Behnken's safe departure.

"I am sort of overcome by emotion. To try to come up with cohesive sentences that make any sense is quite difficult," Musk said before adding, "But I think this is, hopefully, the first step on a journey towards civilization on on Mars."

Lafayette
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 55°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 54°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
43° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 37°
Lafayette
Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 55°
Danville
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 51°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 54°
Frankfort
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 54°
Monticello
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 39°
Monticello
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 39°
Logansport
Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 39°
Mild Monday Before Snow And Freezing Conditions
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 708067

Reported Deaths: 13224
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion964881721
Lake51704945
Allen39185672
Hamilton34497405
St. Joseph34075540
Elkhart27306432
Vanderburgh22077394
Tippecanoe21818212
Porter17940299
Johnson17526374
Hendricks16803310
Clark12688190
Madison12350337
Vigo12211244
Monroe11462166
LaPorte11140204
Delaware10356184
Howard9662211
Kosciusko9127114
Hancock7979139
Bartholomew7888155
Warrick7684155
Floyd7560176
Wayne6899198
Grant6842171
Boone6552100
Morgan6395138
Dubois6084117
Marshall5783108
Dearborn570076
Cass5684102
Henry5577100
Noble542483
Jackson493269
Shelby479095
Lawrence4342118
Gibson428789
Harrison428170
Clinton419053
Montgomery417986
DeKalb410984
Whitley379639
Huntington379480
Miami372565
Knox366389
Steuben365257
Putnam352660
Jasper350546
Wabash347778
Adams337952
Ripley334668
Jefferson313180
White308354
Daviess289299
Wells286381
Decatur278992
Fayette277162
Greene270685
Posey268833
Scott261153
Clay253444
LaGrange253070
Randolph235680
Washington230931
Spencer227931
Jennings224747
Fountain208745
Sullivan207842
Starke204352
Owen192256
Fulton191739
Jay186129
Carroll185820
Perry180336
Orange177853
Rush170724
Vermillion166043
Franklin165635
Tipton160943
Parke144616
Blackford133831
Pike130334
Pulaski113645
Newton103934
Brown100140
Crawford97614
Benton97113
Martin82815
Warren79615
Switzerland7698
Union69910
Ohio55811
Unassigned0409

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events