A SpaceX cargo ship called Dragon is on its way to the International Space Station after a historic launch this weekend in Florida. This latest launch comes as NASA is considering a new mission for its astronauts, CBS News correspondent DeMarco Morgan reports.
With the roar of its engines, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off Sunday from the Kennedy Space Center. Minutes later, the rocket returned to earth – a triumph SpaceX founder Elon Musk captioned on social media with the phrase: “Baby came back.”
Sunday’s launch was the first time a privately-owned spacecraft has taken off from NASA’s historic launch pad 39A, which once launched Apollo astronauts to the moon. It’s a site whose place in history might soon be revived under a plan to return astronauts to the moon and possibly Mars.
The SpaceX launch came just days after NASA said it was considering putting astronauts onboard a mission to orbit the moon, called EM-1. In a letter obtained by CBS News, NASA’s acting administrator told employees last week the agency was “on the verge of even greater discoveries” and that it was exploring the possibility of “adding a crew” to the mission.
That would be a departure from what previous administrations have considered the next step in space exploration: Mars.
“I think it makes a tremendous amount of sense to bring the moon back into the equation of building up the capability and using it as a training base before we head off on our much more challenging trip to Mars,” astronomer Derrick Pitts said.
Now if all goes according to plan with the current SpaceX mission, the Dragon spacecraft will rendezvous with the International Space Station early Wednesday, where it will deliver over 5,500 pounds of equipment, supplies and science gear.