So, there's really no better place to begin a series about the current race for human spaceflight, exploration and colonization than to discuss the realities of human spaceflight right now. As of this morning, our total presence off of planet earth right now is five men and one woman on board the International Space Station. I'll talk lots about the ISS in a later post, but I wanted to start with the rocket which got the crew to the ISS today, the venerable Soyuz.
Soyuz is like the Volkswagen Beetle of the world's space programs; small, simple, reliable, and basically unchanged since 1967. 121 crewed launches as of today; I think that's more than all of the rest of the world's crewed space launches combined. Soyuz exemplifies the Russian model of "low-tech solutions to high-tech problems," the spacecraft has always had the look and feel of something that could have been built as a weekend project in someone's garage. I kind of love this spacecraft.