Yesterday the first commercial cargo flight lifted off on Sunday evening to the International Space Station (ISS). This inaugurates a new age for NASA. Private companies are now taking over the task of transporting people and supplies into orbit.
SpaceX sent cargo for this launch and the private transportation of astronauts will happen in a few years. Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launched the Falcon 9 rocket at 8:35PM Eastern Time yesterday from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX is carrying a capsule called Dragon, which has 1,000 pounds of food, clothing, equipment, and science experiments.
The 23 science experiments was designed and built by students. The cargo includes a freezer which can be used to store lab samples at temperatures as low as 300 degrees below zero. These goods are expected to arrive on Wednesday. The capsule will be docked for a few weeks.
?It actually marks the beginning of true commercial spaceflight to take cargo to the International Space Station for us,? stated NASA administrator Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. SpaceX launched a capsule as a test flight this past May, but yesterday launch is the first of a dozen flights as part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.
The student projects were facilitated by NanoRacks, a company that creates experiments to fly to the ISS. The National Center for Earth and Space Science Education also helped students with the experiments. One of the experiments was by a middle school student in Santa Monica, California that wanted to know if Silly Putty has different properties in the weightlessness of space than it does on Earth.
SpaceX’s spacecraft will be returning to Earth near the end of October and will land in the ocean about 250 miles off the coast of Southern California.
[New York Times]