CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA and SpaceX will launch the first astronauts from American soil in nearly a decade on May 30 from Kennedy Space Center.
The launch was originally scheduled for Wednesday afternoon but was scrubbed after unfavorable weather conditions continued throughout the entire day.
According to NASA, this will be the first crewed mission into orbit from the U.S. since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011.
They said that Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken will ride SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft into orbit on top of a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. They have both completed several in-space missions and were among the first astronauts to begin working and training on SpaceX’s next-generation human space vehicle.
NASA Astronauts Doug Hurley (left) and Bob Behnken (right) | Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP
Hurley and Behnken will reportedly go to the International Space Station for the Demo-2 mission, testing the Dragon spacecraft systems for the first time in orbit before beginning their extended stay in space.
While the Crew Dragon is capable of staying in orbit for about 210 days as a NASA requirement, the specific mission duration has not been determined. NASA said that they will decide the length based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.
When the mission ends, NASA said the Crew Dragon will undock with the two astronauts on board, depart the International Space Station, and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. It will splashdown just off of Florida's Atlantic Coast and the crew will be picked up at sea by SpaceX's Navigator recovery vessel and brought back to Cape Canaveral.
If the mission is successful, it will validate SpaceX’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. It reportedly serves as the final major step before NASA’s Commercial Crew Program certifies the Crew Dragon for operational, long-duration missions to the space station.
The International Space Station (ISS) back dropped by planet Earth. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
This certification and regular operation of the spacecraft will allow NASA to continue important research and technology, they said. The investigations that will take place onboard will attempt to benefit people on earth and lay the groundwork for future exploration, including to the Moon and Mars.
Both Hurley and Behnken began their pre-flight quarantine last week, which is actually a routine part of the final weeks before liftoff for all missions to the space station, NASA said. It is called "flight crew health stabilization" and allows the astronauts to protect themselves and arrive at their mission healthy.
The veteran astronauts will move their quarantine to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday, May 20th, for the final preparations ahead of the historic mission. This will be the first time that a crew will arrive at the Launch and Landing Facility to prepare for human launch from American soil since 2011, NASA said.
SpaceX Dragon Crew capsule (Photo by NASA)
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