The Commercial Crew Program is responsible for helping companies develop vehicles that can ferry astronauts, and maybe civilians, to space. Could this lead to a ‘spaceline’ industry, a la the airlines?
An interview with Ed Mango, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program:
What’s the goal of the Commercial Crew Program?
We still have Americans in space. But we don’t have a way to get there. So the motivation for this small team I have is that we are the next organization within NASA that’s going to get American systems back into low Earth orbit.
Why is NASA relying on private companies instead of operating the flights itself?
It fits with what has happened in the past. Look at how the airlines got started: Air Mail was run by the government, totally. Then eventually, the government didn’t want to be the ones to own airplanes, own airfields, employ the pilots — all that kind of stuff. So they said, “We’re going to contract this out.”
That became cargo capability. And as time went on, companies said, “We can transport people, not just cargo.” Thus, the birth of the airlines.
Keep reading – NASA encouraging spaceflight to go commercial
In December of 1972, Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent about 75 hours on the Moon in the Taurus-Littrow valley, while colleague Ronald Evans orbited overhead.
The image shows Schmitt on the left with the lunar rover at the edge of Shorty Crater, near the spot where geologist Schmitt discovered orange lunar soil. The Apollo 17 crew returned with 110 kilograms of rock and soil samples, more than was returned from any of the other lunar landing sites. Now forty years later, Cernan and Schmitt are still the last to walk on the Moon.
Hundreds of humans have flown in space. Only 40 women (54 as of 2012) have made the journey — including Eileen M. Collins, who commands the Space Shuttle Discovery on NASA’s historic return to flight. NPR explores the long road that women like her have trod into space:
1960-1962: Ladies in Waiting
Twenty-five women report to the Lovelace Clinic, the aviation medicine hub that tested the Mercury 7, America’s first astronauts. There they undergo the same stringent tests endured by the men. All of the women are professional pilots. Several rank among the most distinguished pilots of their time, and many of them outperform the Mercury 7.
Lovelace dubs the 13 who pass the tests the First Lady Astronaut Trainees (FLATs), and they are scheduled for training to become the “Mercury 13.” Just days before reporting to the Naval Aviation Center in Pensacola, Fla., the women receive telegrams canceling their training.
Two of the women — Jerrie Cobb and Janey Hart — campaign in Washington, D.C., to resume the training program. In July 1962, they testify before a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Science and Astronautics, but the panel decides that training female astronauts would hurt the space program. The FLATs never fly in space.
June 16, 1963: First Woman in Space
Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman in space. She spends more time in space than all of the astronauts of NASA’s Mercury program combined…
keep reading – NPR – Timeline: Women in Space
// Thx – Michael Francois
Recently, SpaceX “announced it has assembled a team of independent experts to help the company create a safe spacecraft for NASA astronauts.”
And, one of them, Edward Lu, is on Google+:
“I’m looking forward to peeking under the hood of the SpaceX Dragon, and helping them successfully launch humans into orbit!”
More on the company’s initiatives:
The company is already building its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon capsules to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and has a $1.6-billion contract to do just that for NASA.
SpaceX plans to send its unmanned Dragon capsule to dock with the International Space Station on April 30 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., in a demonstration flight for NASA. If successful, SpaceX would be the first private company to accomplish the feat.
Now that the space shuttle is retired, SpaceX wants in on the potentially multibillion-dollar job of ferrying astronauts to and from the station. To do that, SpaceX needs to make sure its capsule — which is built to fit up to seven people — is safe.
The independent “safety advisory panel” is composed of leading human spaceflight safety experts:
- Leroy Chiao, former NASA astronaut, former International Space Station commander.
- G. Scott Hubbard, former director of NASA Ames Research Center, Stanford University professor of aeronautics and astronautics, sole NASA representative on the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
- Dr. Richard T. Jennings, former chief of medicine for NASA Johnson Space Center, University of Texas Medical Branch professor at the Aerospace Medicine Center.
- Capt. Mark Kelly, former NASA astronaut, former Space Shuttle commander, retired Navy captain.
- Edward Lu, former NASA astronaut.
via LA Times
More about SpaceX, including their manifesto: “transparency, low prices, and worldwide dominance for the future of space travel.”
// Photos via SpaceX Updates
It’s fun to watch the birds and pigs bounce around the International Space Station, plus check out the really cool game footage at the very end.