Featured Image Source: NASA
MISSION SUCCESS! SpaceX launched NASA Astronauts for the first time today, May 30, from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The historic mission, called Demo-2, is carried out by NASA Astronauts Robert “Bob” Behnken and Douglas “Doug” Hurley, who are on their way to the International Space Station (ISS). They made history! It is the first-time astronauts lift off from American soil in nearly a decade. SpaceX officially returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. The launch was expected to bring thousands of crowds to the Florida space coast, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, the agency urged the public to stay-at-home to watch the launch virtually. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and SpaceX founder Elon Musk were present to witness the launch. All SpaceX and NASA personnel were wearing a mask to protect each other from the Covid-19 virus which causes respiratory illness. It is important for the United States to have the capability to deploy astronaut crews to the orbiting laboratory. Astronauts at the ISS Lab perform hundreds of experiments in micro-gravity which have provided humanity with cutting-edge technology and innovations in all fields, including the development of new medicines and treatments. Bridenstine shared that one of the experiments the agency looks forward to is printing human tissues and organs in space one day, which can be truly revolutionary for humankind. Musk, is looking forward to inspiring a new generation of astronauts and engineers with SpaceX’s debut crewed rocket flight - "We want to inspire kids to say that one day they want to wear that uniform. ‘I want to wear that spacesuit’ –and get them fired up about ‘yeah, I want to be an astronaut… I want to work in aerospace engineering. I want to advance spaceflight. What today is about is reigniting the dream of space. Getting people fired up about the future…" Musk said.
This morning, the brave astronauts initiated pre-launch activities, a SpaceX crew helped them suit-up in their sleek SpaceX-designed spacesuits which are custom-made and feature advanced technology to protect them from cabin depressurization.
Behnken and Hurley said farewell to their young sons outdoors (video above) then, headed to historic Launch Complex 39A from their crew headquarters in a Tesla Model X car. They rode for about 20-minutes down to the launch pad where the spacecraft awaited under cloudy skies. The weather had a 50% chance of remaining favorable, there has been a series of storms passing over Florida’s coastline.
They arrived at Launch Pad 39A, the same place from where the Saturn V rocket-propelled astronauts to the moon’s surface during the agency's Apollo program. Behnken and Hurley walked into an elevator to climb the 265-foot-level tower that transported them to the top of the rocket. They walked across the Crew Access Arm, which is a hallway that leads to the door to enter the spacecraft. SpaceX crews helped the astronauts strap-in Crew Dragon. Astronauts waited over 1-hour strapped to their seats as ground teams fueled the rocket.
At around 3:22 p.m. Eastern Time, a special Falcon 9 rocket sporting NASA’s retro ‘worm’ logo, ignited its nine Merlin engines and carried veteran astronauts Behnken and Hurley on board the Crew Dragon spacecraft on a voyage to the International Space Station. "For the first time in 9 years, we have now launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I'm so proud of the NASA and SpaceX team for making this moment possible," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine shared his excitement via Twitter.
For the first time in 9 years, we have now launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. I'm so proud of the @NASA and @SpaceX team for making this moment possible. #LaunchAmerica https://t.co/XiqPAj6Saa— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) May 30, 2020
Their journey will be around 19-hours long, they are expected to dock the spacecraft to the station’s module tomorrow morning. "While in orbit, Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to position itself for rendezvous and docking with the Space Station, which is targeted for ~10:30 a.m. EDT on May 31," SpaceX explained with a video, shown below.
While in orbit, Dragon will perform a series of phasing maneuvers to position itself for rendezvous and docking with the @space_station, which is targeted for ~10:30 a.m. EDT on May 31 pic.twitter.com/OUTJZS2oYR— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 30, 2020
The Demo-2 mission is a test flight meant to test out Dragon’s capabilities, to ensure everything works well for future operational missions. Dragon is capable of operating autonomously with little to no input, during today’s mission, Behnken and Hurley are tasked with switching to manual control to pilot the spacecraft. “The test flight also will provide valuable data toward certification of SpaceX’s crew transportation system for regular flights carrying astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency wrote in a press release, “SpaceX currently is readying the hardware for the first space station crew rotational mission, which would happen after data from this test flight is reviewed for certification.”
About nine minutes after lift off, the Falcon 9 rocket booster returned from space landing vertically on an autonomous drone ship at sea called Of Course I Still Love You. SpaceX is the only aerospace company in the world that has the capability to perform controlled rocket landings, all part of the company's reusability program -which is a true innovation in the industry.
Falcon 9 booster has landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship! pic.twitter.com/96Nd3vsrT2— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 30, 2020
To celebrate the class of 2020 - from kindergarten to graduate school - SpaceX and NASA invited students from around the world to submit their photo to fly alongside astronauts aboard Dragon. All photos are printed in a mosaic of Earth. This gesture makes all students graduation more special, because they did not get a chance to celebrate with their friends amid the Coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, the launch will inspire students to chase after their dreams because the sky is not the limit –the Universe awaits!
With today’s successful crewed launch to space, the United States reemerged as a space power with human spaceflight capabilities, all thanks to SpaceX’s hard work and determination. Congratulations to SpaceX and NASA!
Watch the mission Live in the video below. The astronauts will test Dragon's manual capabilities at around 4:55 p.m. EDT. today and dock to the Space Station tomorrow morning. Schedule is in Eastern Time.
Saturday, May 30
11 a.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins (continues through docking)
3:22 p.m. – Liftoff
4:09 p.m. – Crew Dragon phase burn
4:55 p.m. – Far-field manual flight test
5:55 p.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
6:30 p.m. – Postlaunch news conference at Kennedy
Kathy Lueders, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program
Kirk Shireman, manager, International Space Station Program
NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester
Sunday, May 31
6:45 a.m. – Astronaut downlink event from Crew Dragon
10:29 a.m. – Docking
12:45 p.m. – Hatch Open
1:05 p.m. – Welcome ceremony
3:15 p.m. – Post-arrival news conference at Johnson
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine
Johnson Space Center Director Mark Geyer
NASA Chief Astronaut Pat Forrester
Monday, June 1
11:15 a.m. – Space Station crew news conference, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley
12:55 p.m. – SpaceX employee event and Class of 2020 Mosaic presentation, with NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy, Bob Behnken, and Doug Hurley.