Commercial spaceflight allows more people into orbit, more space research and provides scientists with more data for future trips to the Moon and Mars, astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) told Fox News.
“Now we’re starting to see a lot of government astronauts from smaller countries that don’t necessarily have a well-established space agency,” ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen told Fox News. “They can take advantage of these commercial flights and join us on the International Space Station to carry out their own research and technology programs.”
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The increase in commercial spaceflight is “a very positive development,” Mogensen told Fox News.
The The ISS is in continuous use since 2000 and has hosted more than 260 astronauts from more than 20 countries, according to NASA. Government agencies exclusively launched astronauts to the station until Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, brought four to the ISS in 2020.
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Commercial spaceflight is “really advantageous because there are strengths and weaknesses for both NASA and the government,” said NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli. “And in our commercial entity, like SpaceX, I think they fill each other’s gaps and kind of reinforce each other’s strengths in a very useful way.”
So far, SpaceX has launched eight crewed missions for NASA, the most recent of which brought Moghbeli and Mogensen into orbit. Musk’s company has also made two flights to the ISS for private spaceflight company Axiom Space.
In addition, NASA has selected SpaceX to build the vehicle expected to carry astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface during a mission to be launched in the near future.
That mission to return Americans to the moon began when then-President Trump signed a policy directive in 2017 that directed NASA to “refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery.”
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NASA then launched the Artemis program, which aims to return Americans to the moon and eventually Mars.
“This time we won’t just plant our flag and leave our footprint,” Trump said at the time. “We will lay the foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”
The upcoming trip to the moon “will prepare us to understand operationally how we need to operate when we go on a mission of several months to Mars,” Mogbeli told Fox News.
Her current mission, she said, will help NASA and SpaceX get there.
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Research underway on the ISS “connects directly” to future NASA missions aimed at putting humans on the moon and Mars, Moghbeli said.
NASA’s Artemis program aims to land humans on the Moon in 2025.
To watch the entire interview with Mogensen and Moghbeli, click here.
Ramiro Vargas contributed the accompanying video.