Most Influential Projects 2021

10 Crew-1 Mission

SpaceX crew

For taking commercial spaceflight to a new dimension

Call it one giant leap for commercial spaceflight. When the SpaceX Falcon Rocket propelled the company’s Crew Dragon capsule into orbit in November 2020, it marked the first mission that used a NASA-certified private spacecraft to send a full crew of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The four-person crew spent 168 days conducting scientific and maintenance work.

While the activities aboard the ISS may have been largely business as usual, the mission itself was decidedly not. For the first time, the U.S. space agency assigned much of the design, development and testing of human-rated spacecraft to the private sector. Through the U.S. space agency’s commercial crew program, Boeing received US$4.2 billion in funding (although software issues delayed its project), while SpaceX snagged US$2.6 billion. 

SpaceX Falcon Rocket

The SpaceX mission paves the way for more commercial flights carrying researchers, professional astronauts and eventually paying passengers into orbit—pointing to a future where human spaceflight is not only more affordable but also routine. 

SpaceX certainly seems to be keeping busy: The Crew-2 mission, using another Crew Dragon spacecraft, launched in late April, and a Crew-3 mission is slated for Q4.

For company founder Elon Musk, NASA’s validation “inspires confidence in our endeavor to return to the Moon, travel to Mars and ultimately help humanity become multi-planetary.”