SpaceX Crew-2 Mission Launches From Cape Canaveral
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL - APRIL 23: In this NASA handout, A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft is launched on NASAs SpaceX Crew-2 mission to the International Space Station with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide onboard, Friday, April 23, 2021, at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASAs SpaceX Crew-2 mission is the second crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agencys Commercial Crew Program. Kimbrough, McArthur, Pesquet, and Hoshide launched at 5:49 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center to begin a six month mission onboard the orbital outpost.
(Photo : Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)

On Sunday, Kennedy Space Center launched a SpaceX cargo of ants, avocados, and a human-sized robotic arm. The shipment, which is expected to arrive on Monday, will be the company's 23rd for NASA in just over a decade.

NASA's Kennedy Space Center launched a refurbished Falcon rocket into the early morning sky. After lifting the Dragon spacecraft, the first-stage rocket landed upright on SpaceX's newest ocean platform, "A Shortfall of Gravitas," after lifting the Dragon spacecraft. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has named the booster-recovery boats after the late science fiction writer Iain Banks and his Culture trilogy.

Dragon Carrying Supply

(Photo : SpaceX)

The Dragon is carrying more than 4,800 pounds (2,170 kilograms) of supplies and experiments, as well as fresh food for the space station's seven astronauts, including avocados, lemons, and even ice cream.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are flying up seeds from mouse-ear cress, a tiny flowering weed used in genetic studies, while Girl Scouts are sending up ants, brine shrimp, and plants as test subjects. Weightlessness will also be applied to concrete, solar cells, and other materials.

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Robotic Arm Sent to Space

Meanwhile, an experimental robotic arm developed by a Japanese start-up firm will attempt to screw objects together in orbit and do other tedious tasks typically performed by astronauts. The initial experiments will take place within the space station. According to Toyotaka Kozuki, chief technology officer of Gitai Inc., future generations of the company's robot will go into space to perform satellite and other maintenance operations.

He said that a squad of these arms might assist in constructing lunar outposts and the mining of the moon for valuable minerals as early as 2025.

Because of delays caused by COVID-19, SpaceX had to abandon several tests. It was the second attempt after the first was thwarted by bad weather on Saturday.

After the space shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA turned to SpaceX and other American firms to carry supplies and personnel to the space station.

Golden Age of the ISS

Space Shuttle Endeavour Makes Last Trip To ISS Under Command Of Astronaut Mark Kelly
(Photo : Photo by NASA via Getty Images)

The International Space Station has reached its "Golden Age" after 20 years of continuous residence and is bustling with activity, mainly due to the resumption of US rocket launches via commercial partner SpaceX.

However, although this emblem of post-Cold War collaboration has a bright future, NASA plans to disengage by the end of the decade, creating a void that the private sector and China want to fill.

Multiple Partnerships

At a recent news conference, NASA's human spaceflight program manager Kathy Lueders remarked, "This space station has become the spaceport we wanted it to be."

The United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada pledged to keep the ISS operational until 2024.

"We have certified ISS to fly till the end of 2028 from a technical perspective," NASA said in a statement to AFP. "Moreover, our study found no difficulties that would prevent us from expanding beyond 2028 if necessary."

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