Every generation is witness to events that are great steps forward for the development of mankind. In the context of the space race, we are seeing something unthinkable just a few decades ago: the private sector has made a dramatic entrance into space exploration.
The latest major event in this sector is the launch of the first manned spacecraft developed entirely by a private company which has taken two astronauts to the International Space Station. The company SpaceX and the Crew Dragon capsule, propelled by the reusable Falcon 9 rocket, are behind this mission.
Private initiative in space has proven to be viable, as well as cheaper and more innovative than the great national space programs of the past.
Beyond the many curiosities that arise from a mission like this, some of which we show in our infographic, this is a good time to reflect on what it takes for a business to reach such a triumphant milestone and the consequences it could have in the future.
SpaceX is a relatively young company, created in 2002 by the restless billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. Just six years on, in 2008, his company was the first to put a private rocket into orbit; two years later he was able to retrieve the rocket. However, from the beginning his goal was clear: to lead the space race, explore space, and above all, take steps to colonize Mars one day. And he is heading in that direction.
A manned space mission is not simple. The company had already used its launch pads to take supplies to the International Space Station, but a manned flight required a series of extraordinary operating guarantees. Furthermore, its business model involved making flights commercially competitive so that third parties (nations) might be tempted to use their services. The reusable rocket concept was a pillar of the project and, despite logical setbacks at the beginning, there is no doubt about its success.
SpaceX has proven that, just as in other areas of society, private initiative in space can be much cheaper and less burdensome for taxpayers.
This triumphant success is built upon many years of trials, development of many systems and involvement of many people. In the infographic, we highlight some of the most relevant data from this mission, as well as a few anecdotes and curiosities that help us better understand the complexities and the challenges faced by companies that try to break barriers and reach beyond the known horizon.