Featured Image Source: NASA
Only four days until SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center carrying NASA Astronauts Robert “Bob” Behnken and Douglas “Doug” Hurley on a voyage to the International Space Station (ISS). The Demo-2 mission will be SpaceX’s first crewed flight, it is a test to demonstrate the Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of safely transporting astronauts to the orbiting laboratory. Dragon is capable of operating with full autonomy, during the mission, veteran Space Shuttle pilots will manually control the spacecraft to test its capabilities. Crew Dragon demonstrated its capabilities when it docked autonomously to the orbiting laboratory last year, during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission. “The Demo-2 flight is an end-to-end test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,” the agency stated. The test aims to demonstrate that Dragon can safely and reliably transport humans to space. If all goes well, SpaceX will earn a certification to carry out frequent crewed operational missions. “With our Launch America mission four days away, Astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken started their day in crew quarters and made the trek to NASA Kennedy’s historic launch pad 39A where they’ll return human spaceflight to U.S. soil,” the agency announced via Twitter.
Today, May 23, the astronauts completed their final Launch Day Rehearsal, which was an end-to-end launch day operations practice run to ensure all mission personnel knows every task to perform on launch day. Behnken and Hurley rehearsed in their SpaceX-designed spacesuits. “Behnken and Hurley began their day in the Astronaut Crew Quarters inside Kennedy’s Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building. The pair put on their black-and-white SpaceX spacesuits, took the elevator down to the ground level, and exited through a pair of double doors, where their transport vehicle – a Tesla Model X — waited. With smiles and waves, they climbed in for the 20-minute ride to Launch Complex 39A,” the agency wrote in a press release. “Behnken and Hurley entered the Crew Dragon by way of the pad’s Crew Access Arm and checked their communications systems before the hatch was closed. The rehearsal concluded with the go/no-go poll for Falcon 9 propellant loading, which normally occurs 45 minutes before launch,” NASA detailed. The final rehearsal concluded successfully.
This mission is important to the United States of America, SpaceX will return human spaceflight capabilities after nearly a decade of not launching astronauts. The President of the United States Donald Trump, is expected to fly to Florida to witness the launch. “Excited to welcome President Trump and Vice President Pence to NASA Kennedy to usher in a new era of space exploration on May 27th! Under President Trump’s leadership, we are once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
Excited to welcome @POTUS Trump and @VP Pence to @NASAKennedy to usher in a new era of space exploration on May 27th! Under President Trump’s leadership, we are once again launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil. #LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/15moAV5hca— Jim Bridenstine (@JimBridenstine) May 23, 2020
Since Thursday, the Crew Dragon spacecraft sits atop a Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 39A, waiting to lift off on Wednesday, May 27 -as Falcon 9’s nine Merlin engines roar to life at around 4:32 p.m. EDT. it will ignite a new era in American spaceflight.
During today’s rehearsal, all staff wore masks due to coronavirus outbreak to avoid spreading the novel COVID-19 respiratory illness. The agency is urging the public to watch the launch from home virtually via NASA TV. The Kennedy Space Center will remain closed to visitors. The first manned launch in almost ten years sure comes at a time when America needs a glimmer of inspiration.
This evening, Astronauts Behnken and Hurley will have a chance to meet with their family, who are traveling from Houston to Florida. Hurley shared via Twitter they will have a chance to gather with their family at a beach house near the Space Center to relax and say farewell ahead of the historic mission.
Absolutely! Looking forward to spending some “off” time there over the next few days. https://t.co/Lia9QTf41E— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) May 23, 2020
The astronauts are actually best friends who have spent time together for over a decade. Astronaut Hurley, will be the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, responsible for activities such as launch, landing, and recovery. While, Astronaut Behnken, will be the joint operations commander for the Demo-2 mission. He will be responsible for Dragon’s rendezvous to the orbiting laboratory, as well as docking and undocking the craft.
Yesterday, the astronauts had a question-and-answer session, in which they were asked what makes them “badass.” The astronauts proceeded to share what makes each other “badass.”
“Doug is ready for anything all the time. He is always prepared and when you're going to fly into space on a test mission you could couldn’t ask for a better person.Or a better type of individual to be there with you.” Astronaut Behnken said, “So, I am just thankful that doing something like this – I'm doing it with Doug Hurley because he is going to be prepared for whatever comes our way and he is …prepared quickly. So, I couldn’t ask for more.”
“As far as Bob, he is quite the bad [ass] –and I’ll let you put in the next word,” Astronaut Hurley joked, in reference to the word ‘ass.’ – he continued: “But there is no stone unturned no way that he doesn’t have every potential eventuality already thought about you know, five times ahead of anybody else…So, there’s no question I can ask him that he doesn’t quite already have…the best answer for… It’s such a pleasure … it’s such an asset to have somebody like that on a crew with you. […] He’s already had it all figured out. Everything that we could possibly - potentially -deal with and it just makes it so much easier when you have somebody like that with your crew.”
Watch all events leading to launch day in the video below, courtesy of NASA TV. Schedule dates are in Eastern Time.
Monday, May 25
No earlier than 6 p.m. – Demo-2 prelaunch news conference
Tuesday, May 26
10 a.m. – NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine media availability at Kennedy’s Countdown Clock
Wednesday, May 27
Noon – Live views of the SpaceX/Falcon 9 rocket on Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center
12:15 p.m. – Live countdown coverage of NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (launch scheduled at 4:33 p.m.)
6 p.m. – Demo-2 postlaunch news conference
Thursday, May 28
11:39 a.m. – Docking of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station
1:55 p.m. – SpaceX Crew Dragon hatch opening to the International Space Station
2:25 p.m. – SpaceX Crew Dragon and International Space Station crew media event aboard the space station
Friday, May 29
11:05 a.m. – International Space Station Expedition 63 crew news conference with space station Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley
12:50 p.m. – International Space Station Expedition 63 in-flight event for SpaceX to mark the arrival of the Demo-2 crew.