NASA Astronaut Robert Behnken Ready for Today's Historic SpaceX Crew Dragon Liftoff

James Marshall
May 27, 2020

"This is a big moment in time".

The Weather Squadron, a unit of the Air Force's 45th Space Wing and responsible for supporting missions at Kennedy Space Center, determined there is a 40 percent chance that weather conditions will prevent a rocket launch.

If the flight requires delay, backup windows were identified on May 30 and May 31.

Prior to today's launch, NASA had been forced to pay Russian Federation for seats aboard its Soyuz rockets bound for the space station, or lose American presence in space entirely. And who are the lucky astronauts?

NASA astronaut Robert Behnken will launch to the International Space Station on the Demo-2 mission - the crew flight test of SpaceX's Crew Dragon.

After launch, the astronauts will confirm the spacecraft is functioning properly during the 24-hour flight before the craft docks at the ISS. Eastern May 27 launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft on the Demo-2 mission.

Wednesday's scheduled flight - referred to by the Nasa administrator, Jim Bridenstine, as "the big show" - is the first with astronauts from United States soil under the space agency's commercial crew program, an initiative to hand over lower earth orbit spaceflight to private contractors while it concentrates on deeper-space ambitions such as a return to the moon.

The run-up to the launch has had to contend with the coronavirus crisis, of course.

The astronauts now wear sleek, white pressure suits; they make their way to the pad in one of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's electric cars; and they sit in their capsule behind a touchscreen display. The two countries each own half of the station, which was built over 10 years starting in 1998.

This morning, ground controllers were watching Tropical Storm Bertha developing off the SC coast "near the Falcon 9 rocket's ground track as it would fly northeast from the Kennedy Space Center to align with the orbit of the International Space Station". And everyone, including Hurley and Behnken, have been subjected to regular Covid-19 testing.

"We wish Space X great success on the launch", agreed Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

During their journey to the ISS, Vega said, the astronauts will have two opportunities to manually pilot Crew Dragon if schedules allow.

The solar arrays on the capsule are limited to about 114 days, according to Bridenstine.

"It took us three, nearly four years to design suits that both look good and work well", said SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk in a recent interview.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken (R) and Doug Hurley talk to the media in front of the Crew Dragon spacecraft at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., on October 10, 2019.

"I certainly didn't expect to fly again", Hurley, who also flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2009, says. And those humans are wearing brand new spacesuits that are also making a historic debut.

"[We] worked with them to define the way you interface with it - the way your touches actually registered on the display, in order to be able to fly it cleanly and not make mistakes touching it, not potentially putting in a wrong input", Behnken said in a recent NASA press conference. "I'm excited to be a part of the mission".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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