Elon Musk’s company SpaceX is about to launch its space vehicle – the Crew Dragon – with astronauts onboard for the first time. Here, we answer some common questions about the mission.

Why is a private company launching Nasa astronauts?

Nasa has been planning to hand over the transport of crew to the International Space Station (ISS) since the early 2000s. After the Columbia space shuttle broke up during its return to Earth in 2003, the space agency focused on developing a replacement spaceship that could travel to the Moon. Involving private firms in the transfer of crew and cargo to the ISS was a necessary step to afford that programme. In 2014, entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company SpaceX and aerospace giant Boeing were announced as winners of

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