"We are confident that we understand the issue and can still fly the whole mission safely."

Cracked Dragon

Over the weekend, three NASA astronauts and a Roscosmos cosmonaut launched on board a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft from Florida to the International Space Station, the eighth crew rotation mission involving the spacecraft.

That's despite ground control spotting a small crack forming on the seal of the Crew Dragon's hatch during countdown, a scary discovery that highlights how much this particular capsule has already been through.

The spacecraft, dubbed Endeavour, flew to space for the fifth time on Sunday, having already spent a total of 466 days in orbit, longer than any other astronaut shuttle ever, as Ars Technica reports.

Fortunately, SpaceX's mission control had a closer look at the crack and determined there was no imminent danger.

"We are confident that we understand the issue and can still fly the whole mission safely," a member of the mission control team told the already boarded and patiently waiting crew members.

Next Stop Space

After successfully launching into orbit, courtesy of a boost from a brand-new Falcon 9 rocket, the team safely docked with the station early Tuesday morning.

Once Endeavour splashes down in August, bookending its fifth mission, the spacecraft will have met its life limit.

"Right now, we’re certified for five flights on Dragon, and we’re looking at extending that life out," NASA's commercial crew program manager Steve Stich told reporters. "I think the goal would be for SpaceX to say 15 flights of Dragon. We may not get there in every single system."

However, some individual components of the Crew Dragon capsule are already approved for 15 flights, while others have to be re-qualified, according to Sitch.

It's unlikely Endeavour's small crack will be the last anomaly to be spotted by ground control. NASA has bought 14 operational Crew Dragon flights from the Elon Musk-led company, per Ars.

Sometime next week, a different Crew Dragon capsule dubbed Endurance will return four crew members, completing its third mission into space.

Cracks or not, SpaceX has already proven the longevity of its astronaut transportation vehicle with aplomb — which can't be said of fellow Commercial Crew contractor Boeing's Starliner, a shuttle that has been in development hell for many years now.

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