Launch of Crew 1 signals new era for NASA

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, left, Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency prepare for launch.

 

The launch of SpaceX Crew 1 signals the beginning of the end of NASA’s reliance on the Russian Soyuz rocket to take American astronauts to the International Space Station.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew 1 mission is the first crew rotational flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the International Space Station.

It is a great milestone, said Gary Hayward, a retired electrical engineer who worked on the Mercury and Gemini space programs and is now a docent at the American Space Museum in Titusville.

Hayward, 84, of Titusville, said that the SpaceX’s achievement is quite a contrast to what his generation of engineers did in their respective programs, but in some ways the same.

“What I see coming around with SpaceX, people said couldn’t be done,” he said. “Their approach was similar to ours. They tried until they got it right.”

The milestone that resulted from trials was the successful launch of astronauts to the International Space Station.

NASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker and Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched Nov. 15 to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket. They began a six-month science mission aboard the space station.

“It was a beautiful and successful flight,” Hayward said.

He said landing the first stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9, did not succeed immediately, but the company kept trying until it triumphed.

Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in July 2011, NASA has relied on the Russian rockets to get astronauts to the International Space Station.

Bart Martindale is a space program fanatic who does not miss an opportunity to see a launch up close. He was on hand for a close-up view of the Crew 1 launch.

“I think it’s awesome,”

he said.

Martindale, 71, of Titusville, said he has followed NASA and the space program since he was a child. He believes that it is now going to be commercial companies that do most of the space exploration.

“SpaceX has gone a different route to perfect things,” he said. “It’s become a commercial world.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me if a NASA astronaut gets to the moon and there will be another astronaut with a sign that says: ‘Welcome to the Moon.’ ”