Featured Image Source: Stephen Marr @spacecoast_stve via Twitter
SpaceX returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States today, May 30. NASA has been highly dependent on booking Russian spacecraft to launch astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), ever since the Space Shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. Today, after nearly a decade, America re-established itself as a space power when SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, with NASA Astronauts Robert “Bob” Behnken and Douglas “Doug” Hurley aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft.
The astronauts are currently on a 19-hour-long voyage to the space station. They are tasked with testing out Dragon’s features, including turning off the craft’s advanced autonomous capability to pilot it manually. Behnken and Hurley have extensive experience as military pilots and performed two Space Shuttle missions, combined they logged-in over one thousand work hours in space. Today, they shared they feel honored to give the Dragon spacecraft a special name – Endeavor. “We are given the honor to name this capsule. I know most of you at SpaceX know it as capsule 206, but I think all of us thought that we could make it a little bit better than that, so…without further due we would like to welcome you aboard capsule Endeavor,” Astronaut Hurley said as he is cruising space aboard Dragon. He explained they selected the name because their first mission to space was aboard the Space Shuttle named 'Endeavor,' (video below).
Dragonship Endeavor— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 31, 2020
The astronauts are expected to arrive at the orbiting laboratory by May 31 at around 10:20 a.m. EDT. NASA is live-streaming the entire voyage (shown in the video below). Once they approach the ISS Lab, they will switch on Dragon to autonomous operation, so it can dock itself to the station’s docking port. They will stay to work at the station for six to sixteen weeks, depending on the agency’s determination of how long the mission will last. SpaceX released an online Dragon simulator game that is similar to the control panels astronauts are using. You can try to dock to the station! (linked below)
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were present to witness the historic flight. They gave a speech praising the hard work and determination by SpaceX and NASA teams to accomplish sending astronauts aboard American-made spacecraft, from American soil. President Trump began his speech by discussing the passing of an African-American, George Floyd, who died while detained by police on the streets of Minneapolis on May 25, it initiated mass riots in the streets across the nation, amid the Coronavirus pandemic that has swept the world for the last couple of months. He mentioned NASA's Apollo program, which landed astronauts on the moon during a time the country went through hardships. Trump encouraged the American spirit, stating – “The same spirit which powered our astronauts to the moon has also helped lift our country to ever-greater heights of justice and opportunity throughout our history. So, today as we mark a renewed commitment to America's future in space — a tremendous commitment it is — let us also commit to a brighter future for all of our citizens right here on Earth.”
“Today, under this President, we begin a new mission. To return to the Moon and ultimately land American astronauts on the face of Mars,” Pence told the audience after the launch. "It is an honor and a joy for me to be here with the President of the United States at Kennedy Space Center on the day we made history."
“Today, under this President, we begin a new mission. To return to the Moon and ultimately land American astronauts on the face of Mars.” @VP Pence on our return to the Moon and beyond with #Artemis. pic.twitter.com/HYgmZd6EKF— NASA (@NASA) May 30, 2020
"For the first time in our history, our astronauts have taken to the skies on a commercial rocket, built by America's private sector,” Pence added. He proceeded to ask for a “vigorous round of applause” for the founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX, Elon Musk, and his teams, “job well done!” Musk was in the audience with his family, he stood up, greeting the audience with excitement. His brother, Kimbal Musk, hugged him. Musk has dreamed of sending people to space ever since he founded SpaceX in 2002. Today, his dream came to fruition.
“I am thrilled to announce that the SpaceX Dragon capsule has successfully reached low-Earth orbit and that our NASA Astronauts are safe and sound,” Trump said during the congratulatory speech. “What Col. Douglas Hurley and Col. Robert Behnken did this afternoon was pure American genius and courage. They joined the ranks of just seven prior American astronauts who have made the perilous maiden voyage to test a new class of spacecraft. […] The names of Hurley and Behnken will stand in the history books alongside those of legends like Alan Shepard, Gus Grissom, John Young.”
“Today, the groundbreaking partnership between NASA and SpaceX has given our nation the gift of an unmatched power — a state-of-the-art spaceship to put our astronauts into orbit at a fraction of the cost of the space shuttle. And it's much better."
“It's incredible, the technology, the power. I'm so proud of the people at NASA, all the people that worked together, public and private. When you see a sight like that it's incredible,” Trump shared about seeing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 lift astronauts to space.
President Trump also praised Musk – “I especially want to congratulate someone who truly embodies the American ethos, of big thinking and risk-taking. After achieving success as an internet entrepreneur. He could have spent his fortune doing anything, including yachting …He assembled a crew of some of the greatest minds and talent in American aerospace... SpaceX has become the first private company to develop and successfully launch it's first rocket into orbit [...] SpaceX became the first private company to put humans into orbit... Congratulations Elon Musk!”
“Today the groundbreaking partnership between NASA and SpaceX has given our nation the gift of an unmatched power, a state-of-the-art spaceship to put our astronauts into orbit at a fraction of the cost of the Space Shuttle,” Trump added. “By 2024 our astronauts will return to the lunar surface to establish a permanent presence and a launching pad to Mars. And the first woman on the Moon will be an American woman.”
"By 2024 our astronauts will return to the lunar surface to establish a permanent presence and a launching pad to Mars. And the first woman on the Moon will be an American woman." - @POTUS on humanity's return to the Moon with our #Artemis program. pic.twitter.com/VeoHFtkrHr— NASA (@NASA) May 30, 2020
President Trump said that “the United States has regained our place of prestige as the world leader. [...] You can't be number one on earth if you are number two in space,” and that "we are not going to be number two anywhere."
He ended the speech with some inspirational words – “Today our brave American astronauts shake the Earth and blaze a trail of fiery steel into the heavens. We proclaim for all to hear that we have not yet tested the full strength of the American character.”
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.