Why NASA Just Made Rare Move to Sending Two Astronauts to SpaceX

by Michael Freeman

Things seem to be going well for NASA lately and space exploration in general, but sometimes things don’t always go according to plan. In this case, NASA made a rare move and transferred two of its astronauts to SpaceX.

NASA recently moved two astronauts from one of its Boeing missions to SpaceX. The Starliner’s sluggish development process apparently delayed NASA’s Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

Because of this, astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann will join the SpaceX Crew-5 mission crew for its fall 2022 mission. Cassada and Mann will serve as the mission pilot and commander respectively. NASA announced the transfer Wednesday with a press release.

“NASA decided it was important to make these reassignments to allow Boeing time to complete the development of Starliner while continuing plans for astronauts to gain spaceflight experience for the future needs of the agency’s missions,” the statement reads. Previous reports stated the Boeing’s Starliner mission was “riddled with problems,” hence NASA canceling it on August 3. Though Cassada and Mann transferred to a new mission, Boeing mission astronauts Butch Wilmore, Mike Fincke, and Suni Williams remain there.

Mann issued his own statement, expressing excitement for the new opportunity. “It has been the opportunity of a lifetime to train on a brand-new spacecraft, the Boeing Starliner, and it has been fantastic to work with the Boeing team. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to train on another new spacecraft – the SpaceX Crew Dragon – and appreciate the teams at NASA who have made that possible. I am ready to fly and serve on the International Space Station.”

Though the Boeing mission is experiencing difficulties, NASA reports it is confident it can resolve these issues and commence the mission in 2022.

NASA Considering Making Futuristic Airstream for Astronauts

The iconic Airstream Astrovan transported astronauts to launchpads since the 80s. However, it appears NASA is considering changing things and updating its transportation method.

Fox News reports NASA put out a “request for information (RFI)” for transportation ideas for the new Artemis mission crews. If you watch old space movies or old launch footage, you’ll likely see crew members being transported to the launch pad in an Airstream Excelle RV. Since 2011, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center displayed the fondly-named Astrovan. The agency retired the van when the shuttle program ended.

Before that, NASA used a converted Clark-Cortez motorhome. The Clark-Cortez transported astronauts from the Apollo missions up until the Challenger’s first flight in 1983. Fox News states the new vehicle must possess space for one driver, four fully-suited astronauts, and three staff members.

SpaceX, on the other hand, uses a Tesla Model X. Boeing collaborated with Mercedes and Airstream and revealed its own Astrovan II in 2019, but it hasn’t seen use yet.

It’s hard to imagine anything topping the Astrovan, but I am curious to see what NASA can come up with.