Newly elected Arizona senator and former astronaut Mark Kelly has a message for Americans: Take pride in the accomplishments of SpaceX. “In the last three weeks, SpaceX has launched both crewed and cargo missions to the International Space Station. This is an impressive achievement which Americans should be proud of,” Senator Kelly tweeted this week. The congratulatory message follows a year of milestone achievements for the private space company.
In May, SpaceX sent NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS) from Kennedy Space Center. The demonstration mission called DM-2 ended the country’s reliance on Russia to send astronauts to the space station that started in 2011 when the space shuttle program ended. SpaceX safely brought the astronaut duo home after a successful splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico in August.
More recently, SpaceX sent a four-person crew to the ISS for NASA and Japan’s space agency JAXA. The Crew-1 mission marks the first operational mission of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Under the program, NASA relies on partnerships with SpaceX and Boeing to transport astronauts to the space station using commercially developed spacecraft. Meanwhile, NASA is investing its budget on deep space exploration starting with a return mission to the Moon under the Artemis program.
SpaceX also completed its 21st mission for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract over the weekend. NASA contracted SpaceX to transport essential cargo like food and experiments to the ISS after the retirement of the space shuttle.
Mark Kelly, who flew on four shuttle missions for NASA, was elected to the United States Senate in November. The former astronaut will become the junior senator from Arizona in January. His voice in Congress, especially on issues affecting NASA, will be valuable as the US works toward a permanent presence on the Moon and embraces commercial partners.