2018 should be a huge year for American manned spaceflight

Mike Staton
This post written by Mike Staton.

It’s been nearly seven years since the last American-built spacecraft carried astronauts into orbit – the space shuttle Atlantis.

That drought should come to an end this year.

Barring problems with the spacecraft or the rockets carrying them into orbit, Boeing’s Spaceliner and SpaceX’s Dragon 2 should thunder from Kennedy Space Center launchpads in the last quarter of 2018 – with astronauts aboard. Take note… these are not NASA spacecraft. They are owned and operated by Boeing and SpaceX, and NASA will contract with the firms to fly astronauts aboard their craft.

Crew dragon
Here we have an image of a crewed Dragon, also known as Dragon 2, in low Earth orbit. The first mission with astronauts aboard should occur late this year.

Boeing and SpaceX will fly unmanned missions in August, flights to the space station. While not manned missions, they still should be intriguing. Their automated systems will guide them to the space station where they will dock with it. In 2019, both Starliner and Dragon 2 will be routinely ferrying astronauts two and from the space station.

I’ve always been a fan of exploration – whether it is Antarctica, deep under the surface of the Pacific Ocean or Saturn’s moon Titan. I like seeing NASA contracting to fly astronauts on these two spacecraft… it’s the entrepreneur spirit in action, especially SpaceX.

starliner blasts off
This image depicts a manned Starliner thundering into orbit. It’s manufactured by Boeing.

NASA has its own spacecraft – Orion – and its powerful rocket – the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket – but their first mission won’t fly until sometime in 2020, and it’ll be an unmanned flight out to the moon. The first manned flight won’t be for a couple of years after 2020. Yea, I know… turtle-speed progress. NASA designs super-expensive spacecraft and rockets, but weak budgets mean slow slogging.

As I write this, Facebook just told me astronaut John Young has died. He was 87, the same age as my father when he passed away. I deeply respected Young. Let’s be honest… I hero worshipped him. He’s in an elite group… he walked on the moon in April 1972. He flew six missions – Gemini 3, Gemini 10, Apollo 10, Apollo 16, the first space shuttle mission, and STS-9. Rest In Peace, John Young.

# # #

I’m an author with four published novels that include a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The fourth novel is a historical romance set during the Civil War. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.