The US may have moved one step closer to weaning itself off its reliance on Russia to get astronauts into space as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule has embarked on its first test mission to the International Space Station.
The Crew Dragon took off on the six-day journey with the help of a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Shortly after liftoff, the Falcon 9’s first stage came back to Earth, touching down on SpaceX’s drone ship ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ which was ready and waiting off the Florida coast. Moments later the Crew Dragon completely separated from the rocket and began making its own way to the ISS.
No one is onboard the craft for the test flight with the exception of a test dummy named Ripley. In case you were wondering, yes, the sensor-laden mannequin is named after Ellen Ripley from the ‘Alien’ movie franchise.
If the trip goes off without a hitch and all goes to plan with a subsequent emergency escape test, SpaceX will begin transporting astronauts to the ISS later this year.
NASA has been relying on Russian help to get to the space lab since it shuttered its shuttle fleet in 2011. The US space agency has been paying Russia roughly $81 million for a single seat on the Soyuz spaceship every time it needs to ferry an astronaut to or from the ISS.
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