FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – This weekend, after a scrubbed attempt earlier this week, NASA and Space-X will attempt to launch the first crewed mission to the International Space Station from American soil in nearly a decade.
The launch itself has been well documented, however, it is not the first time astronauts have launched into space from American soil. So the question is, what makes this mission so important?
Fort Wayne native and amateur space historian, John McGauley, says that this upcoming mission will impact Americans across the country for several reasons.
First, McGauley says that there are tremendous medical advances being made aboard the International Space Station, which could only be done in a zero-gravity environment. Those advances may lead to more advances in the healthcare system here on planet Earth.
“There are a great number of projects and programs ongoing aboard the international Space station, to devise new medicines, to develop new techniques for remote surgery and remote medical experiences, that can’t take place on the ground,” said McGauley.
Outside of the medical field, McGauley says that the return of American spaceflight will result in more job opportunities for those on the ground.
“The dollars that we spend on spaceflight, don’t get spent in space. They get spent on the ground, on jobs, on welders and electricians and people developing the electronics that go into these vehicles,” said McGauley.
Over the years, several devices have been invented or created as a result of spaceflight. These devices are known as “space spin-offs” are used by many people everyday.
“Calculators, water filtration technology, a lot of that has come from human spaceflight. But a more tangible benefit is the techniques that they use to build these things. Better welding, better electrical work, better computer technology,” said McGauley.
Since the end of the Shuttle program back in 2011, NASA astronauts have been launched from Russia, which has proven to be much more expensive than a ride to space aboard an American rocket.
“Dragon, for example, is about 55 million dollars a seat. Now, we’ve been flying with the Russians for about nine years or longer, at a cost of 90 million dollars a seat,” said McGauley.
Despite all of these benefits, there are some people who are concerned about spending money on spaceflight during a pandemic.
“These investments in Space-X and Boeing and the other companies that are going to provide us access to orbit, got made a long time ago. These aren’t checks that we are writing today. These are checks that we wrote a long time ago. So when people say that we’re spending millions to send people into space, it’s kind of a misnomer. This money got spent a long time ago,” said McGauley.
The next attempt at a launch will take place Saturday afternoon at 3:22 PM ET. You can view the launch live, by accessing the live-stream link on the WANE Homepage, here.
“There are a lot of benefits to what we’re about to do here. The most obvious one is a point of national leadership. When that rocket clears the tower on Saturday, my overwhelming emotion will be…thrilled,” said McGauley.