And we have liftoff! History will be made when SpaceX sends two NASA astronauts into space aboard its Crew Dragon capsule. It’s the first launch on U.S. soil in nearly a decade, so don’t miss it!
The United States hasn’t launched its own astronauts into space since the end of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011. That drought comes to an end today. At 4:30 PM EST, on May 27, 2020, history will be made. Not only will there be an American space launch for the first time in almost a decade, but it will also be the first time that SpaceX – the commercial space flight company founded by Elon Musk – sends a manned craft into Earth’s orbit. It all takes place at the Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida, and everyone can watch this historic moment. NASA is live-streaming the event on its YouTube channel. SpaceX will also be live-streaming the event on its YouTube channel, so all future astronauts better tune in to watch.
The two NASA astronauts on this mission are Robert “Bob” L. Behnken and Doug G. Hurley, two men who share a lot in common. They both joined NASA in 2000, both achieved the rank of colonel (Bob in the Air Force, Doug in the Marines), both are pilots, both have young kids, and both have the right stuff for the job. “I wanted to make sure everyone at SpaceX understood and knew Bob and Doug as astronauts, as test pilots — badass — but also as dads and husbands,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president, said in a news conference earlier this month, per The New York Times. “I wanted to bring some humanity to this very deeply technical effort as well.”
Astronauts Doug Hurley & Bob Behnken, posing for a photo (Shutterstock)After the Space Shuttle program was shuttered, NASA turned to the private sector to develop a spacecraft that would be able to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station. This was done in hopes of finding a more cost-effective solution, according to CNN, while NASA dedicated its resources to exploring deeper into the solar system. Since 2011, the US has sent astronauts up to the ISS, but they’ve done so via Russia’s space program. These trips have cost the U.S. as much as $86 million each (on average, about $55.4 million over the past decade.) The cost of this Crew Dragon mission will cost about $55 million each, per CNN, but those are estimates based on a contract for the first six missions.
After liftoff, astronauts Bob and Doug will take a 19-hour flight to the ISS. From there, they’ll begin the docking, which could take another two hours. After they’re safe aboard the space station, they will spend anywhere from one to four months aboard. The station is currently understaffed, and these two men – with their numerous science degrees – will help out with the daily operations. When it’s time for them to return, they will return aboard the Crew Dragon, head back to Earth, and complete a splashdown somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean.