Ever since the Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the final time on July 21st, 2011, NASA has had to rely on the Russian space agency’s Soyuz spacecraft to carry astronauts up to the ISS.
Now though, nearly ten years on, it looks as though this arrangement may be finally coming to an end after it was announced that two NASA astronauts will be launching to the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule on May 27th.
The mission, which will help to cement the country’s manned space program well into the future, follows on from a previous successful unmanned test flight of the Crew Dragon capsule last year.
It will be the first time SpaceX has ever launched humans into space.
“We need access to the International Space Station from the United States of America,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Commercial Crew is the program that’s going to make that happen.”
“It’s essential for our country to have that capability.”
Named DEMO-2, the launch will be the final part of the Crew Dragon’s testing phase and if all goes according to plan, NASA is expected to officially certify the spacecraft for ongoing operational use.
Given the current coronavirus pandemic, making sure that the astronauts do not bring the virus up to the ISS with them will be of the utmost priority.
“We always quarantine all of the astronauts before they go to the International Space Station,” said Bridenstine. “Now we’re taking even more precautions.”