SpaceX, NASA begin first operational astronaut mission to space

1 / 2
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon capsule, is launched carrying four astronauts on the first operational NASA commercial crew mission at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 15, 2020. (REUTERS/Thom Baur)
2 / 2
This SpaceX video grab shows Nasa's SpaceX Crew-1 members waiting for 2nd Stage separation, (from L) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi, on Nov. 15, 2020 after launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (SpaceX handout photo via AFP)
Short Url
Updated 16 November 2020

SpaceX, NASA begin first operational astronaut mission to space

  • It is NASA’s first full-fledged mission sending a crew into orbit aboard a privately owned spacecraft
  • SpaceX is the rocket company of high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, CEO of electric carmaker Tesla Inc.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: SpaceX, the rocket company of high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched four astronauts on a flight to the International Space Station on Sunday, NASA’s first full-fledged mission sending a crew into orbit aboard a privately owned spacecraft.
SpaceX’s newly designed Crew Dragon capsule, which the crew has dubbed Resilience, lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 7:27 p.m. eastern time (0027 GMT on Monday) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
An air leak caused an unexpected drop in capsule pressure less than two hours before launch, NASA officials said. But technicians said they conducted a successful leak check, and the scheduled launch was still on.
The 27-hour ride to the space station, an orbiting laboratory some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, was originally scheduled to begin on Saturday. But the launch was postponed for a day due to forecasts of gusty winds — remnants of Tropical Storm Eta — that would have made a return landing for the Falcon 9’s reusable booster stage difficult, NASA officials said.
The astronauts donned their custom white flight suits and arrived at the Kennedy Space Center launch pad on schedule at 4:30 p.m. in three white Tesla SUVs, flanked by NASA and SpaceX personnel.
Vice President Mike Pence attended the launch and said beforehand that under President Donald Trump, America had “renewed our commitment to lead in human space exploration.
President-elect Joe Biden Tweeted his congratulations, saying the launch was “a testament to the power of science.”




This SpaceX video grab shows Nasa's SpaceX Crew-1 members waiting for 2nd Stage separation, (from L) Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, Michael Hopkins and Soichi Noguchi, on Nov. 15, 2020 after launching from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (SpaceX handout photo via AFP)

First private mission
NASA is calling the flight its first “operational” mission for a rocket and crew-vehicle system that was 10 years in the making. It represents a new era of commercially developed spacecraft — owned and operated by a private entity rather than NASA — for sending Americans into orbit.
A trial flight of the SpaceX Crew Dragon in August, carrying just two astronauts to and from the space station, marked NASA’s first human space mission to be launched from US soil in nine years, following the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. In the intervening years, US astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
The Resilience crew includes commander Mike Hopkins and two fellow NASA astronauts, mission pilot Victor Glover and physicist Shannon Walker. They were joined by Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, making his third trip to space after previously flying on the US shuttle in 2005 and Soyuz in 2009.
Musk, the billionaire SpaceX chief executive who is also CEO of electric carmaker and battery manufacturer Tesla Inc. , will likely not have watched the liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center launch control room, NASA officials said. Musk said on Saturday he “most likely” has a moderate case of COVID-19.
SpaceX and NASA have conducted contact-tracing and determined Musk had not come into contact with anyone who interacted with the astronauts.
“Our astronauts have been in quarantine for weeks, and they should not have had contact with anybody,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Friday. “They should be in good shape.”
NASA contracted SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to develop competing space capsules aimed at replacing its shuttle program and weaning the United States from dependence on Russian rockets to send astronauts to space. 
 


Japan pauses domestic travel push in two cities as COVID-19 spreads

Updated 24 November 2020

Japan pauses domestic travel push in two cities as COVID-19 spreads

  • Critics of the program had said it risked spreading the infection from major cities to the countryside

TOKYO: Japan paused its domestic “Go To Travel” promotion campaign in two cities following sharp rises in COVID-19 infections, a government minister said on Tuesday, a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s plan to help prop up regional economies.
Critics of the program had said it risked spreading the infection from major cities to the countryside.
“We have agreed to temporarily exclude trips destined for the cities of Sapporo and Hokkaido from the travel campaign,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Tuesday.
“Although we have tried to balance both economic revitalization as well as virus containment, we have made this decision at the local governors’ request,” Nishimura told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Suga and Tourism Minister Kazuyoshi Akaba.
Akaba said the two cities would initially be excluded until Dec. 15, during which time no new reservations could be made under the program, which offers discounts on fares and hotels.
Suga said on Saturday the government would suspend new reservations under the program for trips to hard-hit areas.
The western city of Osaka reported 171 new cases on Monday after seeing a record 286 cases the previous day, a city official said.
Sapporo in the north reported 140 daily cases on Monday, below a record 197 cases reported on Thursday last week, a city official said.
The capital of Tokyo has seen new daily infections soar past 500 and serious cases reached 51 on Tuesday, the most since a state of emergency was lifted in May.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters that there was a rise in infections among older residents, including cases where people had contracted the virus while eating out and brought it home to their relatives.