Why Elon Musk’s SpaceX is launching astronauts for Nasa

By Paul Rincon
Science editor, BBC News website

Publishedduration44 minutes agoRelated Topics

  • SpaceX launch

image copyrightSpaceX

Elon Musk's SpaceX is flying people to and from the International Space Station (ISS), using the Crew Dragon vehicle. But why is Nasa paying a private company to launch its astronauts?

To understand the background to the Crew Dragon missions, we need to go back almost 20 years to a tragic accident.

On 1 February 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. All seven astronauts aboard perished in the disaster.

The loss of Columbia and its crew was the trigger for a dramatic shift in direction for America's human spaceflight programme.

On 14 January 2004, President George W Bush announced that the space shuttle would be retired after completion of the International Space Station (ISS). In its place, America would build a new vehicle capable of returning astronauts to the Moon.