Astronomer Mark Hammergren on the Historic SpaceX Launch today .
This historic flight is really a test. It’s the last big milestone for SpaceX as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The experimental initiative tasked private companies with creating new spacecraft for NASA that are capable of transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX’s contribution to the program is a sleek, gumdrop-shaped capsule called the Crew Dragon. While it’s flown a few times before, the capsule has yet to carry people to space.
SpaceX spent the last six years getting to this point. Last year, the company did a full dress rehearsal, successfully launching the Crew Dragon to the station without a crew on board. The company also tested the capsule’s emergency escape system, confirming that the Crew Dragon can carry people to safety if something goes wrong during the launch. But there have been setbacks to overcome, too, including rocket failures and the explosion of a Crew Dragon capsule during a ground test last year. SpaceX has since recovered, referring to the failures as “gifts” that helped the company create a safer vehicle.