SpaceX will perform its first crewed mission soon, on May 27th at around 4:32 p.m. Eastern Time, a Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from historic Launch Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying NASA veteran astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will make history because it will also be the first time a manned flight is launched from American soil since 2011. The mission is called Demo-2, it is the final test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) that will demonstrate to NASA the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s capabilities in order to obtain a human-rate certification for operational missions. The NASA Astronauts who will perform the Demo-2 mission are Robert “Bob” Behnken who is 49 years old, and Douglas “Doug” Hurley, 53 years old. They are set to make history, when SpaceX return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. The brave pair, have been training for years and have over a decade of experience as pilots and astronauts. Behnken and Hurley have two Space Shuttle missions of experience and have performed thousands of hours piloting supersonic jets. During their upcoming mission, 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.
All Images Source: NASA and SpaceX
Over the years, they have formed a close friendship. “Bob and I got pretty close. It's just like anything else—you gravitate to certain people," Hurley said. "We spent a whole bunch of time together, and I got to the point where I thought, 'Hey, maybe this guy isn't so bad.'" The two astronauts became best friends, they have worked together for two decades. "I've seen Doug's behavior at my wedding, I've seen Doug's behavior in an airplane, and we've worked together dealing with the aftermath of the worst thing you can imagine happening in our career field. I can predict his actions. He can predict mine," Behnken shared, “[We] can predict almost by body language what the person's opinion is or what their next action is going to be...We've just been doing this so long that it's kinda’ like having a second set of hands.”
Astronaut Hurley is married to a NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg. They have one son. He recently shared a cute drawing his son drew of the Crew Dragon spacecraft via Twitter.
Our son’s version of Crew Dragon. I love it. pic.twitter.com/GIYRRMOXd4— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) April 30, 2020
Astronaut Behnken is also married to a NASA Astronaut, Katherine Megan McArthur. They have a six year old son. During a recent press conference, the astronauts shared what they are most excited about.“On my first flight, I didn’t have a small child, I didn’t have a son and so I’m really excited to share the mission with him and have him have a chance to be old enough at 6 to see it and share it with me when I get home and while I’m on orbit,” Behnken shared:
“[My son] has only seen the pictures and video from before he was born, from my previous missions...I do want him to know that it's a mission that I feel strongly about. It's going forward in a way that I think is important for us, as humans — as Americans as well. And I want him to be proud of his father.”
Hurley shared he is excited to fly the Crew Dragon spacecraft after years of development and testing – “We’re just excited to kind of put it through its paces when we get ready to go fly,” he said. “It’s hard to put maybe into words one specific thing but I think just ... going through the mission profile and kind of putting a stamp on things to make sure it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do or what we expect it to do.” Hurley shared SpaceX’s technologically advanced spacecraft, Crew Dragon, which gives him peace of mind due to its capability to operate autonomously. “You're more of a monitor of all the systems and you're not using all your brain power to actually fly the vehicle,” he said, “the vehicle has manual capability in several phases, and we will certainly test that out.” During the Demo-2 mission, they will pilot Dragon manually for a couple of brief moments as they approach the space station. During an uncrewed test flight, Demo-1, Crew Dragon demonstrated it can flawlessly dock autonomously to the space station’s module. “We specifically, as part of this test flight, designed in some time in the pre-flight phase, as well as closer to the space station, so we can test out actual manual flying capability of the vehicle. Just to see and verify that it handles the way we expect it to, and the way the simulator shows it to fly,” Hurley stated. “It’s a prudent part of our flight test just like anything else, in case the eventuality happened that a future crew needed to take over manually and fly the spacecraft. So, we’re just doing our part, to kinda’ test out all the different capabilities of the Crew Dragon.”
Astronauts will enter a period of 'medical quarantine' for a couple of weeks, starting on May 13 - to ensure the astronauts' health remains optimal ahead of the historic flight. They will spend a couple of weeks inside a special quarantine room at Johnson Space Center in Texas, then privately fly on a NASA aircraft to Florida on May 20 to perform final launch preparations at the Kennedy Space Center.
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.