SpaceX pulled off a historic mission in 2020, proving that, despite his eccentric reputation, Elon Musk is going to be a large part of the future of space exploration. Achieving a feat many years in the making, the SpaceX team sent astronauts into space and brought them back home safely. But while it was a landmark success, there was a major hiccup no one foresaw that could have doomed the entire mission.
Looking To Mars
The long-term mission of SpaceX is to make the colonization of Mars possible. Keeping that goal in mind, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said, “This is really just the beginning. We are starting the journey of bringing people regularly to and from low Earth orbit, then onto the moon, and then ultimately onto Mars.”
But first, the mission was to launch a craft called SpaceX Demo-2, also called the Dragon, carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station. Given SpaceX’s status as a commercial company, the world was keeping an extra close eye on how successfully they’d pull this off. They had a lot to prove.
Pressure To Succeed
If all went well, SpaceX would get NASA Commercial Crew Program’s certification for the ability to complete further trips to the International Space Station in the future. Dragon had pulled off its first flight without any people on board. This time, astronauts were making the leap, so the stakes of ensuring their safety was an added layer of pressure.
Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert ‘Bob’ Behnken were chosen for the mission, tasked with seeing the Dragon spacecraft through each groundbreaking step of the process: the launch, landing successfully on the Space Station, and the most crucial, returning safely back to Earth.