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NASA is on its way to make history once again with the launch of the first-ever private spacecraft on April 30. NASA will oversee the launch of the Dragon cargo vessel, owned and developed by the private company SpaceX.
The spacecraft will dock at the International Space Station and will deliver 1,200 pounds of food and non-critical supplies to the ISS. The mission will last for 21 days and after that the spacecraft will re-enter the earth’s atmosphere and plunged down in the Pacific Ocean where it will be recovered and reuse.
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA is hoping that privately owned spacecraft like the Dragon can be used as a replacement to ferry cargo and later on astronauts to the ISS. Currently, NASA pays Russia Soyus spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS and it cause NASA $63 million per astronaut. SpaceX offers to carry astronauts for $20 million per seat. But no plans are set for such mission. SpaceX was awarded a contract with a minimum of 12 flights to the Internationa Space Station, but only the cargo mission has a launch date for now.
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news source: idealab.talkingpointsmemo.com