Featured Image Source: NASA
SpaceX launched NASA astronauts for the first time on May 30th, the mission referred to as Demo-2, returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. The agency had not launched astronauts from American soil since 2011. Veteran NASA astronauts Robert “Bob” Behnken and Douglas “Doug” Hurley launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). Demo-2 is a demonstration mission meant to ensure the Dragon spacecraft is reliable to transport humans on operational missions. Behnken and Hurley joined Astronaut Chris Cassidy at the station as members of Expedition 63. The astronauts named the first SpaceX Dragon to carry humans - Endeavour. "We both had our first flights on Shuttle Endeavour, and it just meant so much to us to carry on that name," Hurley shared.
Today, July 4th, the crew recorded an Independence Day message from the ISS orbiting laboratory. “From the Space Station, NASA Astronauts commemorate the Fourth of July. With them is a U.S. flag that flew on the first and last space shuttle missions. Astronaut Behnken and Hurley will bring it back to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour,” NASA captioned the video, shown below.
“We are taking a moment out of our schedule to honor the 244th birthday of the United States of America and we hope you are doing the same,” Cassidy said. Then he passed the microphone in zero gravity to astronaut Hurley.
“Even though we are living during unprecedented, challenging times the spirit and resolute will of our country and all Americans has never been stronger as we give thanks for the freedom and the bounty of riches our nation provides all of us,” Hurley added, then the microphone floated towards Behnken.
“This American flag was launched on the very first Space Shuttle mission in 1981, and re-flown on the final Space Shuttle mission nine years ago,” Behnken said, “Doug and I will bring ‘Old Glory’ home with us on our Endeavour Crew Dragon spacecraft. So, it can be flown yet again when Americans launch on the Orion spacecraft to place American boots on the moon.”
“Our flag is not only symbolic of our fervent love of our country, but represents the spirit of American drive and exploration, that will lead us once again, a new generation of explorers to venture back to the moon and beyond in the years to come,” Cassidy added, “So, take a moment, as we are, to reflect on our history. America’s place in the world, and all that freedom has to offer. Thank you from all of us at the International Space Station.”
From the @Space_Station, @NASA_Astronauts commemorate the #FourthofJuly. With them is a U.S. flag that flew on the first and last space shuttle missions. @AstroBehnken & @Astro_Doug will bring it back to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon Endeavour: https://t.co/IygUtMeh2X pic.twitter.com/mcntYrUjqw— NASA (@NASA) July 4, 2020
This flag is even more special to Astronaut Hurley. About nine years ago, Hurley performed the last Space Shuttle mission launched from American soil, he left the U.S. flag at the space station. When the flag was left at the orbiting laboratory the agency stated – “The flag will remain displayed onboard the station until the next crew launched from the US retrieves it for return to Earth so that it can be carried by the first crew launched from the US on a journey of exploration beyond Earth orbit.” Whichever American aerospace company launched astronauts to space first, would earn the privilege to bring back the historic flag to Earth.
SpaceX’s goal was to one-day launch astronauts to the space station, after the final Space Shuttle was grounded in 2011 the company stated via Twitter – “SpaceX commencing flag capturing sequence...”
SpaceX commencing flag capturing sequence...— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 15, 2011
After nearly a decade, SpaceX successfully launched astronauts to ISS. Hurley said the flag represents the hard work of thousands of NASA and SpaceX teams who helped reignite the new era of human spaceflight in the United States.
The flag now features a note from Astronaut Cassidy, the note reads: “Do not forget to take with Crew Dragon.”
According to Kenneth Todd, deputy ISS program manager at NASA, Behnken and Hurley are expected to return aboard Dragon Endeavour on August 2nd.
“You can bet we will take it with us when we depart back to Earth,” Hurley said in May – “We are lucky enough to be able to take it home with us. Congratulations, SpaceX, you got the flag!”
Congratulations SpaceX you got the flag!
Brought home by same person who placed it there almost a decade ago— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 31, 2020