Sat. Oct 1st, 2022
NASA astronauts Chris Ferguson (left), STS-135 commander;  and Doug Hurley, pilot, at a press conference in 2011.
enlarge NASA astronauts Chris Ferguson (left), STS-135 commander; and Doug Hurley, pilot, at a press conference in 2011.

NASA

In the midst of the final flight of NASA’s space shuttle, President Obama called the International Space Station to congratulate the crew on their mission. During the phone call on July 15, 2011, President Obama referred to a flag that the four-man crew of the STS-135 had put into orbit.

“It is my understanding that Atlantis also brought a unique American flag to the station, one that was flown during the very first shuttle mission and one that will remain on the ISS until an American commercial space company launches astronauts to the station,” President Obama said.

The shuttle mission commander, NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, replied that he planned to present the flag to the residents of the space station before the space shuttle Atlantis departed for its return to Earth. “It will hopefully hold a position of honor until the next vehicle launched from American soil brings American astronauts to the space station,” Ferguson said.

President Obama had a mixed record in spaceflight. He tried to push NASA away from large, cumbersome and expensive exploration programs to something more futuristic. Less time spent building big rockets – let the private sector do it – and more work on advanced technologies. But he and a congress that planned to preserve jobs in their districts never considered this together, so the agency drifted a bit. However, what Obama successfully pushed through was initial and sustained funding for commercial crews.

In Node 2 of the International Space Station, the crew of STS-135 presented the crew of Expedition 28 with this special American flag and mounted it on the hatch leading to Atlantis.
enlarge In Node 2 of the International Space Station, the crew of STS-135 presented the crew of Expedition 28 with this special American flag and mounted it on the hatch leading to Atlantis.

NASA

The president saw the potential for a space race between these commercial companies during his conversation with the crew of space shuttle Atlantis and told Ferguson, “I understand it’s going to be sort of a ‘capture the flag’ moment here for commercial spaceflights, so good luck.” for whoever takes that flag.”

The race begins

At that time, four companies were being considered to offer private taxi services. In April 2011, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, SpaceX and Blue Origin received awards as part of the second phase of the commercial crew program. Boeing and Sierra Nevada received the largest awards at the time.

Still, it was SpaceX that seized the president’s call to the space station. The company’s account tweeted, “SpaceX starts capturing flags.” This is known as ‘calling your shot’.

In the following years, a race developed and in 2014 NASA made the final roster of SpaceX and Boeing to develop private spacecraft to take people into space. Chris Ferguson left NASA to become a senior developer for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. He will also fly the vehicle on its maiden flight, which is likely to take place next year.

Meanwhile, the pilot of that last space shuttle mission, Doug Hurley, stayed with NASA. And it turns out Hurley was selected to lead SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station. That mission is now scheduled for May 27 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be the first people-in-job launch from the United States in nearly a decade.

Ars asked Hurley Friday if he remembered the flag. “The plan was always that the first American vehicle launched from Florida and coming to the International Space Station would take that flag that was flying on both STS 1 and STS 135, the first and last flight of the shuttle program,” he replied. . “I think we’ll probably grab it and keep it in a safe place while we work aboard the space station, and then we’ll bring it back when we get back this summer.”

We’ll be extremely disappointed if the SpaceX account doesn’t tweet at the crash of a successful Crew Dragon mission: “Complete flag capture.”

By akfire1

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