Last week, SpaceX hosted a closed-door. invitation only Mars workshop, intended to bring together an interdisciplinary team of industry leading experts to discuss the plan for the red planet. Details on this meeting are, as you would imagine, still pretty minimal, but it is encouraging that this sort of thing is starting to ramp up, and the right questions are being asked of the right people.
A recent criticism that has been lodged against SpaceX is that they are very focused and successful with solving the engineering problems required to improve rocket technology and build the pathway to Mars. However, the amount of time spent considering the human factor, and how difficult it will be to keep astronauts alive both on the journey as well as once they have arrived is far less. Challenges ranging from radiation exposure (in space and on the surface) to adequate supplies to the ‘dust problem’ to basic human interactions all need to be considered and seriously addressed. Since Musk’s companies all show a propensity for thinking of the edge cases and surprising us when we think they are missing an angle, I maintain great confidence that what needs to be considered, is well under way.
On August 3rd, NASA officially named the astronauts who will fly on the SpaceX and Boeing crew modules destined for the International Space Station. This is a tremendously important step, as it is allowing the US to reclaim their own access to space instead of relying on Russian launch capability as it has since 2011 when the Shuttle was officially mothballed.
On the SpaceX Crew Dragon:
(test flight) Col. Bob Behnken of the Air Force
(test flight) Doug Hurley, a retired Marine Corps colonel
(ISS) Mike Hopkins, Air Force colonel
(ISS) Victor Glover, Navy commander
On the Boeing CST-100 Starliner:
(test flight) Eric Boe, a former space shuttle pilot who retired from the Air Force
(test flight) Christopher Ferguson, a Boeing astronaut who left NASA in 2011
(test flight) Lt. Col. Nicole Mann of the Marine Corps
(ISS) Williams, a retired Navy captain
(ISS) Cmdr. Josh Cassada of the Navy
The test flights will be here before we know it, with uncrewed flights of the new modules scheduled for late 2018, and the first human test flights slated for mid-2019.
I’m really delighted to see how excited the local news is in Florida. I like to think that after nearly a decade of downtime since the Shuttle was mothballed, and far more years than that since there was palpable excitement across the country and the world for the promise of space flight, they are delighted to see this industry returning to their area, and with real conviction!
This flight is important, because it is the first reuse of their new Block 5 model first stage booster. Specifically, this will be the second flight of booster B1046, which was first flown on May 11th 2018 for Bangabandhu-1, Bangladesh’s first communications satellite.
So – stay up, or set an alarm, for the Merah Putih mission! (press kit)
(Image Credit: The Merah Putih spacecraft. Credit: SSL)
An update to the schedule of the new SpaceX launch – the Merah Putih mission is now scheduled for early morning of August 7th. If all stays on the new schedule, the reused Falcon 9 Block 5 booster will lift off at 1:18am Eastern and complete another important mission for the world leader in space technology!