24/7 Space News
Boeing's Starliner joins select club of crewed US spaceships
Boeing's Starliner joins select club of crewed US spaceships
By Issam Ahmed and Lucie Aubourg
Washington (AFP) June 5, 2024

Throughout the annals of American space exploration, a select few spacecraft have had the distinction of carrying human beings beyond our home planet.

Boeing now joins this elite group with the long-awaited launch of its Starliner capsule, just the sixth class of vessel built in the United States for NASA astronauts.

Here's a recap of their storied past, marked by groundbreaking triumphs and some devastating setbacks.

- Mercury -

Known as America's "man-in-space" program, Project Mercury was born just days after NASA itself was formed in 1958, and officials settled on the term "astronauts" for its space explorers.

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American to fly in space during a 15-minute suborbital flight in the one-man, cone-shaped capsule -- about a month after the Soviet Union's Yuri Gagarin became the first human to achieve the feat.

Another milestone came in February 1962 when Mercury astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

Black mathematician Katherine Johnson, whose story was immortalized in the book and film "Hidden Figures," was among those working tirelessly from the ground to ensure the program's success.

- Gemini -

While Mercury was about getting people up into space, Gemini was focused on extending their mission time and developing critical maneuvers -- such as spacewalking, and mastering precise orbital velocity matching for spacecraft docking.

The Gemini spaceship resembled an enlarged Mercury capsule, designed for a two-person crew. A significant innovation was the introduction of onboard computers, primitive by today's standards but capable of assisting with the complexities of a space rendezvous.

During the final Gemini mission, Buzz Aldrin -- nicknamed "Dr Rendezvous" -- was forced to pull out a sextant and make critical calculations on paper using a slide rule, in order to accomplish docking with an uncrewed practice spacecraft after the computerized tracking system went down.

- Apollo -

Apollo was NASA's response to President John F. Kennedy's challenge to land a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960s.

Achieving the goal required three key pieces of technology.

The first was the giant Saturn V rocket. Designed under ex-Nazi Wernher von Braun, it remained the most powerful rocket for five decades.

The second piece was the command module -- whose interior was as roomy as a big car -- and the third was the lunar descent vehicle.

While Apollo 11 achieved humanity's first crewed touchdown on July 20, 1969, the program was also marked by tragedy. A fire during a preflight test for Apollo 1 killed all three crew members, highlighting the risks and sacrifices made in pursuit of space exploration.

- Space Shuttle -

NASA's Space Shuttle program, which spanned from 1981 to 2011, took a revolutionary approach by combining rocket launch, capsule re-entry, and glider-like runway landings.

The era marked significant milestones, including the first space flights by American women and minorities, the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope on the shuttle Discovery, and the construction of the International Space Station in the late 1990s.

However, it was also marred by two devastating tragedies: the 1986 Challenger disaster, which occurred just after launch, and the 2003 Columbia disaster, which happened during re-entry.

Both incidents resulted in the loss of all crew members, totaling 14 lives.

- Crew Dragon and Starliner -

After the space shuttle was retired, the United States was left without a homegrown capacity to launch its astronauts and was forced to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets.

NASA decided to shift from a model where it owned the hardware, to instead hiring services from the commercial industry in multibillion dollar contracts.

Newcomer SpaceX beat heavily-favored aerospace titan Boeing in flying its first crew to the ISS in 2020, an underdog triumph that catapulted Elon Musk's company to powerhouse status.

Meanwhile, Boeing has struggled with technical issues, echoing wider organizational problems that have plagued its aviation division.

Both companies have adopted the classic gumdrop-shaped capsule design, but with modern twists: sleek displays, autonomous flight, and full reusability.

NASA's Orion capsule should be the seventh spaceship to carry American astronauts during the Artemis II mission around the Moon, set for 2025.

Related Links
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The following news reports may link to other Space Media Network websites.
Boeing Starliner's first astronaut mission scheduled to launch Wednesday
Washington DC (UPI) Jun 4, 2024
After several scrubbed liftoffs, Boeing's first Starliner crewed mission will try again Wednesday to launch NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a critical, week-long test flight to the International Space Station. NASA and Boeing confirmed Monday that the Starliner capsule, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and ground support equipment are in good shape and ready for the next launch attempt, which is scheduled for 10:52 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canave ... read more

Roscosmos Progress 88 cargo spacecraft docked at the International Space Station

Artemis III Integrated Test Achieves Major Milestone

Take three for Boeing Starliner crewed launch attempt

Russian cosmonaut logs record 1,000th day in space

SpaceX's megarocket Starship launches on fourth test flight

Boeing Starliner's crewed launch abruptly halted, again

Europe's long-delayed Ariane 6 rocket set for July 9 launch

NASA to decide when to reschedule Starliner crewed launch

Mars' subsurface ice could be a key to sustaining future habitats on other planets

NASA seeks faster, more affordable Mars sample return mission

Martian meteorites offer insights into Red Planet's structure

South Korea targets Mars mission with new space centre

Shenzhou 18 crew conducts first spacewalk

Zebrafish on China's space station reported to be in good condition

China sends experimental satellite into orbit with Long March 4C rocket

International Support for China's Chang'e-6 Lunar Mission

Nara Space Secures $14.5M Series B to Expand Satellite Fleet

CGI works on new interfaces for European Space Agency to expand satellite communications market

China launches multi-functional communication satellite for Pakistan

Starling spacecraft swarm completes primary mission

NYU Abu Dhabi researchers advocate for stronger sustainability regulations in space exploration laws

European Team Validates Flow Models in Zero Gravity

What is the European sovereign cloud?

Australian rare earths firm says data leaked day after Chinese investors blocked

Why do astronomers look for signs of life on other planets based on what life is like on Earth?

NASA's Webb Telescope Observes Potentially Habitable Exoplanets

Newly Discovered Planet Retains Atmosphere Despite Star's Intense Radiation

Giant viruses discovered on Greenland ice sheet

Unusual Ion May Influence Uranus and Neptune's Magnetic Fields

NASA's Europa Clipper Arrives in Florida for Launch Preparation

New Earth-Based Telescope Images of Jupiter's Moon Io Match Spacecraft Quality

Peering into Pluto's hidden ocean

Subscribe Free To Our Daily Newsletters

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.