…is postponed until next year. This is interesting, politically:
In one corner, we have the SpaceX Crew Dragon, a successor to the original Dragon capsule it’s been using to deliver supplies to the ISS. The seven-seater vehicle appears to be quite the looker, with fairly large windows to give passengers a stunningly clear view of their journey — a feature you’d definitely appreciate if you were a paying customer. The company already has a solid idea of what to do with the capsule outside of its Commercial Crew responsibilities. In fact, it already sold two seats to take private citizens on a trip around the moon next year … but only if it has already started taking astronauts to the ISS for NASA.
A successful Falcon Heavy flight (hopefully next month) is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for SpaceX to attempt an Apollo 8 recreation (the fiftieth anniversary is almost exactly a year from now). If they do it before they’re flying commercial crew, it will have the appearance of not keeping their eyes on the ball for NASA’s needs. But NASA can control the schedule by throwing up impediments to first flight, and some at the agency might be motivated to see that happen, because it would be politically embarrassing to see a private company do an Apollo 8 re-enactment before the agency can with SLS, causing even more people to question the need for the latter. It will be an interesting year.
Oh, one other point. Amusing to see a woman journalist using the terms “manned” and “unmanned.” I personally try to only use those terms to describe historical events (e.g., Apollo). It appears that “crewed” and “uncrewed” are gaining acceptance, but there remain two problems with that. First, “crewed” sounds like “crude” when verbalized. Second, not everyone who flies will be crew. Maybe we need to start saying “humanned” spaceflight.