NASA is becoming self-sufficient. It has succeeded in using the expertise of a commercial company to send the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station ISS. The company is Elon Musk’s SpaceX and there was a single occupant in the inaugural flight. It was Ripley, a mannequin, with a whole range of sensors installed on it to monitor how a flight of this nature will affect an astronaut. The name 'Ripley' is the name of a protagonist in a sci-fi movie titled as “Alien.”

Sky News reports SpaceX launched the rocket carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Saturday.

It made 18 orbits around the Earth before releasing the capsule that finally docked with the ISS on Sunday morning. The docking module was Harmony, installed in 2016 and used only now. A three-member crew from Expedition 58 greeted the capsule.

Dragon capsules will play an important role

It has been a gradual development from a normal Dragon capsule to the Crew Dragon. The former was to transport non-humans while the latter, as its name implies, is to transport astronauts and crew. One of the Dragon capsules docked with the ISS last April with a load of supplies required for the smooth functioning of the Skylab.

The Crew Dragon will remain with the ISS for five days during which time members of Expedition 58 will conduct a number of tests to ascertain the feasibility of carrying humans.

This is because transporting humans is different from transporting cargo. Crew Dragon will return and land in the Atlantic Ocean when once again, experts will take over to confirm whether it can enter regular service.

SpaceX will give more clout to NASA

According to Space, the flight of Crew Dragon capsule to the ISS is a major achievement for NASA because it will mean reducing dependency on Russia for sending astronauts to the Skylab.

The success of the venture will mean bringing back orbital human spaceflight to the United States. NASA retired its space shuttles in 2011 and has to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets for transportation. It was an expensive affair with charges of nearly $80 million apiece.

SpaceX has been using its Dragon cargo capsule to fly unmanned resupply missions to the ISS since 2012 as per a contract with NASA.

The Crew Dragon is a modified, upgraded version of the same and has provisions for accommodating astronauts. There are windows, fancy touch-screen displays, a life-support system, and an escape system. Each of these is important when dealing with the lives of humans. Moreover, the design of both Dragon variants ensures that they are reusable, which is a positive tick for Elon Musk.