Race to space in 2020

From global superpowers to billionaires, the race to space is more crowded than ever, ABC News’ Clayton Sandell reports.
11:57 | 05/27/20

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Transcript for Race to space in 2020
22 money is certainly a year for the history books in many cases for all the wrong reasons. But Smart has the potential to be a monumental moment a new Ara in space flight. Weather permitting we could see two astronauts lift off from American soil for the first time in nearly a decade. This time aboard a privately owned and operated station. And if you can imagine. Space launches are difficult under the best of circumstances. Now imagine the risks during a pandemic stork launch with renewed meaning. During this tumultuous time. They ignition and liftoff. Of that you felt that nine to the space station. On the first commercial launch from Kennedy space center's. This story pad 39. In 20/20 the race to space he's more crowded than ever. Rocket ships and space station's humans and robots. Governments and millionaires all reaching for the stars. Echoing fierce competition from. A share technology and up. But today space isn't just for global superpowers Horowitz also the pursuit of the super rich. We can make space accessible aren't away there's going to be content Karuna. On launch pad thirty Friday at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral Florida America's newest chapter in space needs ready to blast off. Here SpaceX a company founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk plans to launch its dragon space capsule with two NASA astronauts inside. Dream. The mission's goal is to demonstrate that a private company like SpaceX can deliver astronauts to the International Space Station and get them whole safely. NASA astronauts Bob bacon and Doug Hurley will be on board. I think continued to push into space challenges us as Americans challenges us as scientists and engineers. And I think that that continued push. Is important. If so mission succeeds American astronauts will not only be free universe gravity for the first time in nearly a decade they'll be free from paying Russia for a ticket to space. Hurley now deploying the drag chute. The space shuttle pulls and deport. For the last time. Its voyage. At an end. When Hurley landed the final space shuttle flight in 2011 America's ability to launch its own astronauts into space was history. It certainly. And honored to be part of it you know be part of and of the shuttle program and the start of this program and just want to do our best to it to be successful on this mission because there's just been so many people that have worked. You know work so hard to to get us to this point. The US could only get a ride to the International Space Station from Russia which keeps raising the price of a single ticket now nearly ninety million dollars. But this time Hurley and bacon are trading Russian capsules for a modern ride polished interiors high tech seats and touch screen controls. The wave that you know the technology has has developed since Apollo cents. Fifty years that that that it has evolved all those things are obviously stated the aren't relative take even what we flew on shuttle. What hasn't changed is that space flight is risky it was over in an unbelievable micro second the flames enveloped Apollo one. The crewmen never had a chance over the decades great achievements came with great tragedy and counter. Go with struck out. And then it happened. SpaceX has had its own setbacks though none of them fatal in 2016. Rocket blew up on the pat. Then just over a year ago an explosion destroyed an empty SpaceX dragon capsule just like the one that will carry bank and in Hurley. The challenger disaster halted shuttle launches for nearly three years'. But experts say unlike governments private companies like SpaceX can work quickly to get back on track freed up too much government red tape. With a astronauts the commercial pleased to be a bad word because they really want the government to you know shook everything up eighteen times to make sure it works. Now realizing that you know the private sector with its continuous improvement and stuck as some newer ideas is the SpaceX lost the capsule that spoke to carry these guys last year cash but how best they fix it because it was designed like any commercial product which these things are to be fixed because you need to sell these things in the U casals Amanda work. SpaceX is poised to beat one competitor with a century of aerospace experience polling. Last December Boeing star liner was launched on a test flight it was supposed to dock at the International Space Station but a technical glitch forced the mission to be called off. Boeing says before star liner carries any astronauts it'll get another test flight. And experts say SpaceX will get bragging rights. Now there is a competition. Boeing's you know only lose this capture the flag pick and I don't think they like that and I think they're probably gonna get more creative which is a good thing. Elon Musk isn't the only billionaire looking skyward possible Amazon founder Jeff pesos has blue origin of the company is developing a moon Lander but first hopes to offer rides to tourists. Richard Branson's virgin galactic is selling tickets to space and says demand is sky high the cost of going wait list a quarter of a million dollars. But on Monday his other company virgin orbit launched a rocket from a 747. Designed to send small satellites into earth orbit. It failed. Aerospace giant Lockheed Marten is looking beyond earth orbit building and testing a new long range vehicle called Orion. One of the keys to success in space flight is to tasks tasks and tests are more and that's what they do in this giant building here at Lockheed Marten. Just outside of Denver one of the things they can do is blast this spacecraft with sound waves to simulate the violent vibrations all the launch. They'll also tested every single system and they want to make sure that if something goes wrong. It happens in here. And not out there. A Ryan seeks up to four in a capsule design that's a throwback to the 1960 stop. Here cancer layup and a top you'll see what looks like Colin. A lot of folks recognize that looks like Apollo any answers yet it's a capsule and ask his capsule has his physics hasn't changed. Been down capsules are still the best houses are still the best on the more we run our simulations the more you realize. And those folks with a slide rules and that chalk and chalkboard we're right. Ryan is part of NASA's are to miss program launched into space on the biggest rocket ever called SLS. Beginning. The mission to fly astronauts including the first women to the mood by 20/20 four. We difficult times like today. It's really important to be thinking about. Wherever get a receipt as the human race he compelling aspect understanding. We are where did he come from and where are we going and most importantly are we alone those questions exist in outer space. For travel beyond earth NASA plans to use an orbiting outpost called gateway. Specific concept for where the astronauts would live and work knowing that time that there orbiting around a man and why he needed to know why not just fly from earth. Blamed on the moon and do you think yeah. I'm because this allows us to go anywhere on an exhibit. Gateways actual mobile so we can move it to other locations around the moon C could explore the peace specific threat to them and you're going to address. Location on the South Pole to equator would ever. This allows you to do that can back up here collect and do some science that but you've collected and then maybe moved to different locations and then do some more. Thinking of it as a pit stop in deep space. Oh yeah. Oh yeah yeah so. We have areas here like. Berthing area where people led them rest or sleep. If you looked up you can see this is a treadmill for astronauts to be doing their exercise on you get a treadmill sort of on the ceiling here but it could be anywhere. Kept it until lot of experience of growing food as it is to places like martyrs are not gonna have the lives of six to be constantly bringing food to the astronauts there. So they have to be sustainable other and. Before humans go to Mars which is planned for the mid 20s30s robot explorers will go first. The perseverance rover is set to launch this summer. Part of its mission is to collect rock samples that for the first time will eventually be taken back to worth. And we have two cameras on board. When lower. How sad and you and those are the kinds of reasons that you can reach dad don't know roller could ever get to. Now space exploration is more global than ever this year China is planning an unmanned mission to the red planet and also wants to collect rocks on the moon and fly them back to work India is also launching a moon Lander. And the United Arab Emirates will send a probe to study the martian atmosphere. Got in the last. There's actually reached double the number of space agencies that are out there almost every country is now creating their own space agency. Even the United States last year creating another space agency. And space is going to be. It's going to be the future. Both in terms of defense and offense and so many other things have already from what I'm hearing and based on reports we're now the leader in space. A new branch of the military called space force. And liftoff of united launch alliance atlas five rocket with the US assets seven for the United States' space correspondent mission dedicated to America's strong. Space force launched a secretive military plane earlier this month billionaires aside space exploration depends on political will and lots of money. Suddenly tighter in the age of a pandemic. Engineers say they're ready to build on the accomplishments and. The failures of the past using new ideas and new technology to help take our biggest lead yet so this is an inspiration. Coming out of this pandemic this country this world needs an inspiration my we need something. I think we need this. Now more than a. Our thanks to Clayton streaming coverage on ABC news live in Nat geo will begin tomorrow at 3 PM be sure to stick with us. As we bring you weather permitting. Matt historic launch.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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