Since retiring the Space Shuttle back in 2011, NASA has had to rely on Russian rockets to shuttle astronauts back and forth from space — an expensive arrangement, considering that in recent missions NASA has paid Russia roughly $70 million per seat on one of their Soyuz spacecrafts.
Not only has NASA’s reliance on Russia been a costly endeavor, it also marks the first time in history that the United States has been dependent on another country to transport its astronauts to space.
While many people were concerned about retiring the Space Shuttle before having a new spacecraft ready to take its place, NASA saw the growing private sector in the space industry as an opportunity to save resources while still focusing on their main objective: “To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.”
And nowhere in this objective — to “benefit all humankind” — do they mention achieving it without help from other governments or private companies. In fact, the idea of NASA teaming up with other space agencies and using private companies to help them with their objectives is not a new concept. NASA has outsourced projects to companies (like Boeing) for years with great success.
With decades of research and data on transporting astronauts and cargo to and from space, it makes perfect sense why NASA is looking into outsourcing these activities. Not only would using commercial spacecraft to transport astronauts and cargo to and from space save NASA money, it would also allow them to shift focus to some of their other more important long-term goals — like developing their own spacecrafts for long-term spaceflight, putting a man on Mars and potentially finding life beyond Earth.
Since 2012, commercial aerospace company SpaceX has been under contract with NASA, fulfilling cargo resupply missions to the space station. And in September of last year, NASA signed two more billion-dollar contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to develop crew capsules that could shuttle astronauts to and from space.
NASA hopes that Boeing and SpaceX will have spacecrafts ready to safely transport astronauts by 2017. And after releasing impressive images and a video of the recently completed crew quarters inside their new “Crew Dragon” capsule, it seems that SpaceX is on schedule to have their spacecraft ready to go.
Check out the video below to see SpaceX’s Dragon crew quarters…
SpaceX’s newly designed spacecraft features technology that will literally be out of this world. The Crew Dragon will feature the most modern, functional and organized control panel astronauts have ever seen. According to SpaceX…
“Crew Dragon’s displays will provide real-time information on the state of the spacecraft’s capabilities – anything from Dragon’s position in space, to possible destinations, to the environment on board.”
The state-of-the-art Environmental Control and Life Support System on board (which will control the air pressure, among other things) will not only provide a safe environment for crew members, it will also give astronauts the ability to adjust the spacecraft’s internal temperature for comfort.
The futuristic seats — made of high-grade carbon fiber and Alcantara cloth — are likely inspired by SpaceX’s CEO and car-enthusiast Elon Musk, who also founded Tesla Motors. The spacious quarters will also feature four windows, so astronauts on board can take in views of Earth, their destination and everything in between.
On top of comfort, astronauts will be at ease knowing that the capsule will be equipped with an emergency escape system that has already been successfully tested.
Learn more about SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft here.