The joke within NASA is that Bob Behnken better keep the spacecraft clean, and return it in good shape. Because as it turns out his wife, Megan McArthur, a fellow NASA astronaut who was selected as part of the very same astronaut class in 2000, is scheduled to fly it next.
NASA recently announced that McArthur, an oceanographer, who flew on a Space Shuttle mission to repair the Hubble telescope in 2009, would fly the second operational SpaceX mission, sometime in the spring of next year.
Originally, NASA was going to require SpaceX to fly its astronauts on brand new capsules each time. But SpaceX, the first company to ever recover a rocket booster from an orbital mission and reuse it, has made a habit of recycling its hardware. Traditionally, rocket boosters were ditched in the ocean after powering their payloads to orbit, never to be used again. But as Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder has said, that’s like flying a commercial airplane from New York to Los Angeles and throwing it away. Since 2015, SpaceX has been flying its boosters back to Earth, where they land on a ship at sea or on a landing pad on the coast.
Ultimately, SpaceX convinced NASA that used spacecraft — or “preflown” in its parlance —could meet NASA’s strict mission requirements.
In recent years, SpaceX has been “proving the awesomeness of reuse and preflight, the importance of it,” Benji Reed, SpaceX’s director of crew mission management.
The benefits are obvious, he said, “not only from an economic viewpoint overall for the spaceflight industry, but also from a safety and reliability perspective. You learn so much from a vehicle that you that you can refly. And you also have to build it better, and you have to build it more robustly for a vehicle that you know that you’re going to need to use multiple times.”
Once Behnken and fellow astronaut Doug Hurley come home in the capsule that they’ve dubbed Endeavour, SpaceX will work to refurbish it, so it can be ready for McArthur’s flight.
So Behnken better bring it back without any dents.
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