The two NASA astronauts who rode SpaceX’s first crew-carrying Dragon capsule to orbit today named their spacecraft, continuing a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of America’s space effort.
“I know most of you, at SpaceX especially, know it as Capsule 206,” Hurley said over a space-to-ground video link a few hours after launch. “But I think all of us thought that maybe we could do a little bit better than that. So, without further ado, we would like to welcome you aboard capsule Endeavour.”
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Hurley said the name was chosen to recognize the “incredible endeavor” that SpaceX and NASA have taken on in the wake of the space shuttle fleet’s retirement in 2011.
He and his crewmate, Bob Behnken, also have a personal connection to the name. “We both had our first flights on shuttle Endeavour, and it just meant so much to us to carry on that name,” Hurley explained.
The space shuttle Endeavour, now on exhibit at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, isn’t the only precedent for the Crew Dragon’s new name: Apollo 15’s command module, which went to the moon in 1971, was named Endeavour as well. Apollo 15 commander David Scott said that name was chosen in honor of the HMS Endeavour, British explorer James Cook’s 18th-century research vessel.
There was another pet name revealed today. It’s traditional for spacefliers to bring a plush toy or trinket aboard their spacecraft to serve as a zero-G indicator when weightlessness kicks in during spaceflight. Behnken said that his son and Hurley’s son settled on a sequined plush dinosaur named Tremor to become the mission’s zero-G stowaway.
It’s no surprise that Tremor quickly sold out on Amazon: The same thing happened last year when a plush Planet Earth was tucked aboard a robotic Crew Dragon as a zero-G indicator for an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station and back. Endeavour is due to dock with the space station on Sunday.
Here are a few other tidbits from the Crew Dragon’s launch day:
During a post-launch news briefing, Kathy Lueders, NASA’s program manager for commercial crew noted that Hurley and Behnken have been nicknamed the Dads. That “may have something to do with their age,” she said. “I can say that because they’re on orbit,” she added. “It’ll be a few months before they come back and kick me.”
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was asked when his company’s Starship super-rocket, which is currently under development, could be expected to make its first flight around the moon. Musk replied that he wants it to happen, but acknowledged that he tends to have trouble sticking to deadlines. “I would be surprised if it took more than four” years, he said. SpaceX is receiving $135 million from NASA to support the first phase of Starship’s development as a potential lunar lander, to be used on NASA Artemis missions by as early as 2024.
Musk noted that SpaceX was founded 18 years ago to fly people into space, and said that goal has now been achieved. But he also said the company’s ultimate goal is to make humanity a multiplanet species by making it possible to establish a city on Mars. “We must make life interplanetary,” Musk said. “I call upon the public to support this goal, and to think about this goal. … We’ve got to get it done.”