Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken work in SpaceX’s flight simulator. (AP)

Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken work in SpaceX’s flight simulator. (AP)

Spectators watch from a bridge as SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (AP)

Spectators watch from a bridge as SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (AP)

NASA astronauts Doug and Bob get ready to drive a Tesla SUV to the launchpad. (AP)

NASA astronauts Doug and Bob get ready to drive a Tesla SUV to the launchpad. (AP)

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, with NASA astronauts aboard, docks with the International Space Station Sunday, May 31, 2020. (AP)

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, with NASA astronauts aboard, docks with the International Space Station Sunday, May 31, 2020. (AP)

Not Your Grandpa’s Space Capsule

Posted: July 1, 2020

Dream. Plan. Do tons of math. Build. Check your work. Double check. Triple check. Launch!

A rocket launch can go wrong in a million ways. All the people building and crunching numbers in a mission like this one have a gigantic responsibility. Their job? Get astronauts safely to and from space. And SpaceX workers have another task too:  Make space travel look incredibly cool.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken pull up to the launch in a sleek, futuristic Tesla car. They wear totally hip spacesuits. And what they’re climbing into is just as fancy. Look inside SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsule. The Dragon—which the two astronauts helped design—has clean, beautiful lines. Before, space shuttles had a mess of switches and knobs. This one shows off shiny touchscreens. The Dragon capsule makes other shuttles look like old news.

“We want it to not only be as safe and reliable as you’d expect from the most advanced spacecraft in the world . . . we also want it to look amazing,” says Benji Reed, a SpaceX mission director.

What’s this beauty’s name? The astronauts revealed it on launch day: Endeavour. The named spacecraft reminds people of NASA’s early days. Project Mercury’s John Glenn became the first American to circle the Earth aboard Friendship 7. Gus Grissom and John Young sailed into orbit aboard Molly Brown. Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins flew to the Moon aboard Columbia.

Another bit of the past: Three decades later, NASA’s “worm” logo is making a comeback. The wavy red letters spell NASA. The A’s look like rocket nose cones. The worm adorns SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket that propelled Endeavour into space. The astronauts sport it on their suits too. The new gear also features NASA’s original blue meatball-shaped logo.

Elon Musk owns SpaceX. He has his eyes on a big prize: building a human city on Mars. In order to do that, his team has many obstacles to overcome. They begin by finding ways to travel to space affordably. One idea: Make rockets reusable. Normally, rocket parts float around space forever after they’re used. That’s like taking a plane ride . . . then throwing away the plane!

After launch, people haul the Falcon 9 rocket booster in from the sea. SpaceX workers hope to fix it up and use it again.