NASA and SpaceX chiefs shook their heads with disbelief and joy on Wednesday after a perfect launch into orbit and back of the company’s Dragon capsule, a historic first for the future of space travel.
Never before has a private enterprise attempted to launch its own spacecraft to orbit the Earth and splash back down intact, and SpaceX pulled off the operation perfectly, NASA and company officials said.
The demonstration launch invigorated the US space agency and boosted confidence in the prospect of using commercial vendors to carry astronauts into space and to supply the International Space Station.
“I am sort of in semi-shock. I wish I could be more articulate at moments like this,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said.
“It blows my mind. It is hard to be articulate with a blown mind,” Musk told a NASA press conference.
“This has really been better than I expected,” he added. “If there had been people sitting in the Dragon capsule today, they would have had a very nice ride.”
The Dragon spacecraft blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida atop the massive Falcon 9 rocket at 3:43pm GMT.
The bullet-shaped capsule entered orbit about 10 minutes later, then circled the Earth twice before re-entering the atmosphere from low orbit, and splash-landed into the Pacific Ocean at 7:04pm GMT.
“The SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft has successfully splashed down in the ocean. Mission success!” NASA tweeted moments after the company confirmed Dragon had made a soft landing in the ocean well west of the Mexican coast.
No one was aboard the Dragon space capsule on this flight, but it has room for seven crew and an ample cargo hold that could supply the International Space Station after NASA closes down its space shuttle program for good next year.
“From all indications it looks like it was 100 percent successful,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the NASA Commercial Crew and Cargo Program.
“It’s really an amazing accomplishment for SpaceX,” he added. “This experiment is working — this public-private partnership has shown to be successful today. Thank you for the early Christmas present.”
The operation aimed to showcase the capsule’s ability to launch and separate from the Falcon 9 rocket, orbit Earth, transmit signals and receive commands, then make it back intact.
Company president Gwynne Shotwell said the water landing was just 52 seconds later than projected and the craft splashed down within 10km of its landing point, and well within the 60km by 20km range.
The next step is for a fly-by of the ISS as part of a five-day mission in which the Dragon will approach the orbiting station within 9.7km.
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,
Former US vice president Joe Biden on Friday said he “should not have been so cavalier” after he told a radio host that African Americans who back US President Donald Trump “ain’t black.” In a call with the US Black Chamber of Commerce that was added to his public schedule, Biden said he would never “take the African American community for granted.” “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” Biden said. “No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background.” Biden faced criticism after his comments earlier on Friday on The Breakfast Club, a