Future of Human Space Travel
Only half a century ago Neil Armstrong said, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” While no human has visited the moon since December of 1972, today, our reach is beyond the sky. With more advanced technology, humans are able to explore the unlimited universe, far beyond the moon.
On May 30, 2020, the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket was launched successfully at NASA’s historic Kennedy Space Center, carrying two astronauts. While the two astronauts brought important scientific experiments to the ISS, the most important piece of cargo was themselves.
The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond.
Most importantly, the Falcon 9 is the world’s first orbital class reusable rocket. Reusability allows SpaceX to refly the most expensive parts of the rocket, which in turn drives down the cost of space access.
Rocket launching projects are relatively expensive compared with other company projects, but a launch for SpaceX still runs at about 1.5% of a similar Nasa launch. The efficiency of SpaceX could not have been imagined by the slow moving NASA which has a history of overspending on projects and delays going back to the original space race.
With this technology, however, the cost can be significantly reduced. By recycling the rocket, we can spend more budget on rocket design and technology breakthrough, to get our rocket traveling farther in space.
The Falcon 9 is different from a normal space shuttle. The rocket is designed to carry astronauts to the ISS, but also to carry wealthy private citizens as “space tourists”.. The Crew Dragon astronauts said the ride on the Falcon 9 rocket was smoother than the space shuttle for the first couple of minutes.
The space shuttle launched with two solid rocket boosters, which provided more than two-thirds of the shuttle’s total thrust at liftoff, unlike the falcon 9 which has three boosters, the space shuttle has 2, making the ride more bumpy for the crew. SpaceX has signed an agreement with the U.S. space tourism company Space Adventures to launch up to four passengers on an orbital trip aboard a Crew Dragon space capsule.
The mission would last up to five days and could launch as early as late 2021. Under the agreement, Space Adventures will use a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon vehicle to fly up to four passengers to Earth orbit.
Although the trip will not visit the International Space Station, it will instead remain in orbit as a free-flying spacecraft. Meanwhile, Space Adventures is also working with Roscosmos, a Russian state space company similar to NASA, to fly two space tourists to the International Space Station on a dedicated Soyuz spacecraft in 2021.
Eric Anderson, the chairman of Space Adventures said, "creating unique and previously impossible opportunities for private citizens to experience space is why Space Adventures exists ince its maiden mission in 2010, no engineering achievement has consistently impressed the industry more than the Dragon/Falcon 9 reusable system."
While NASA and SpaceX were busy supporting the historic Demo-2 mission from Florida, the Chinese were making space strides of their own. China once again picked up the pace of its launches with two successful rocket flights back to back, around the same time that Demo-2 blasted off toward the International Space Station on May 30.
China first launched two new technology-demonstrating satellites at 4:13 a.m. Beijing time on May 30.
Barely 36 hours later, China sent another satellite duo aloft from the country's northwest region. The Long March rockets is a family of expendable launch system rockets operated by the People's Republic of China and is China's primary expendable launch system family.
The Shenzhou spacecraft and Chang'e lunar orbiters are also launched on the Long March rocket. The maximum payload for LEO is 12,000 kilograms (CZ-3B), the maximum payload for GTO is 5,500 kg (CZ-3B/E), the spacecraft also exceeds the payload capacity of the Falcon 9. The next generation rocket – Long March 5 variants will offer more payload in the future.
Long March 5 heavy rocket is equipped with guidance, navigation and control technology that mean its trajectory can be adjusted continuously. It is capable of dropping its payload directly into orbit, which requires extreme precision.
Before the end of the year, the Long March-5 is scheduled to launch China's first Mars probe and the Chang'e-5 lunar probe to collect moon samples and return to Earth, according to Xinhua. China launched its first manned space flight in 2003 -- more than 40 years after NASA. But as the nation has grown richer and more powerful in recent decades, its space program has accelerated.
Written by Rohan Mehta, Gihyen Eom, Michael Ding & Calvin Ma
Edited by Alexander Fleiss