Space scientist Daniel Batcheldor is professor and head of the Aerospace, Physics and Space Sciences program at Florida Institute of Technology (Florida Tech), located a short drive from the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s Space Coast. An astrophysicist whose department trains students to work with NASA, SpaceX and other space-science organizations, Professor Batcheldor is watching closely as SpaceX prepares for its Crew Dragon Launch on May 27.

Batcheldor is an excellent source on the significance of this ambitious mission featuring American astronauts on board an American rocket being launched from U.S. soil for the first time in many years. “This is not just about the launch,” Batcheldor says. “It’s a full end-to-end mission to demonstrate that a crew can safely complete a round-trip to the Space Station,” he notes.

“Commercial companies are pushing forward their own ideas and technologies by taking advantage of this increased space access,” he says. “With Crew Dragon, people themselves will now have better access to space.”

“This mission also signals the firm return of U.S. leadership in space exploration,” Batcheldor notes. “While the iconic Space Shuttle will live on in our hearts, its retirement in 2011 left an uneasy feeling of the U.S. falling behind in the space arena,” he says. “With a U.S. vehicle, crewed by U.S. astronauts, being launched from the legendary Space Coast, the United States will once again proudly lead humanity's ongoing ambitions to explore, understand, and harness our universe.”

Once successfully demonstrated, not only will the number of people per launch return to the Shuttle days, but the number of launches themselves will increase, according to the Florida Tech professor. “While astronauts’ numbers are currently approaching 600, with vehicles like Crew Dragon the number of people that have visited space will soon number in the thousands,” notes Batcheldor, who is also author of the book Astronomy Saves the World: Securing our Future Through Exploration and Education (Spacewalk Publishing, 2016).

More information on Professor Daniel Batcheldor at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida: and a link to Florida Tech’s Department Of Aerospace, Physics And Space Sciences: