Featured Image Source: SpaceX
NASA and SpaceX are performing final preparations to conduct the first manned rocket flight launched from American soil in nearly a decade. NASA funded SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft development under a Commercial Crew Contract valued at $3.1 billion. In 2019, the spacecraft successfully showcased its capabilities during Demo-1, the first demonstration mission to the orbiting laboratory. The first crewed mission is referred to as, Demo-2, scheduled for May 27. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from historic Pad 39A at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, to launch the upgraded Crew Dragon spacecraft on a voyage to the International Space Station (ISS). Crew Dragon will carry NASA astronauts Robert ‘Bob’ Behnken and Doug Hurley, who are training for this vital mission that will return human spaceflight capabilities to the United States. “Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, responsible for activities such as rendezvous, docking and undocking, as well as Demo-2 activities while the spacecraft is docked to the space station,” the agency states, “Hurley will be the spacecraft commander for Demo-2, responsible for activities such as launch, landing and recovery.”
Today, April 20, the agency announced it will hold a press conference on Friday, May 1st, that will be live-streamed on NASA TV’s website.
"NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will host a trio of media briefings beginning at 11 a.m. EDT May 1, to preview NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 mission."
During the conference, media will not be present on-site, due to the coronavirus outbreak they are following the Centers for Disease Control social-distancing guidelines to avoid spreading the respiratory illness. All media will be required to set up an appointment and video call to interview the astronauts and NASA officials. "NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who will serve as crew for the mission, will be available for remote interviews,” representatives wrote in a press release. SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell will also be present at the live conference. NASA details, the series of conferences on May 1st will initiate at 11 a.m. EDT. The first, will be a Commercial Crew and International Space Station overview news conference with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine alongside Commercial Crew Program managers. The SpaceX President will give interviews at 12:30 p.m. And at 2:00 p.m. EDT. Astronaut Behnken and Astronaut Hurley will be present share about their upcoming journey to the space station.
On May 1, we're previewing the return of human spaceflight to U.S. soil. 🇺🇸 Hear from @JimBridenstine, @SpaceX and NASA managers as well as the astronauts, @AstroBehnken & @Astro_Doug, set to launch May 27 aboard the Crew Dragon: https://t.co/t4KnSMTqhq #LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/XCWuMNOUsZ— NASA (@NASA) April 20, 2020
The Demo-2 mission will bring back the excitement America felt when Saturn V launched astronauts to the moon, and the Space Shuttle fleet launched crew to ISS. This comes during a time America has been hit by the coronavirus outbreak and is in need of inspiration. Astronaut Hurley shared his excitement and gratitude via Twitter today:
"It’s official! Astronaut Behnken and I are going to space next month and are extremely grateful to the SpaceX and Commercial Crew teams continuing to do incredible work during extremely challenging circumstances. We are excited to help open the next era of human space flight."
It’s official! @AstroBehnken and I are going to space next month and are extremely grateful to the @SpaceX and @Commercial_Crew teams continuing to do incredible work during extremely challenging circumstances. We are excited to help open the next era of human space flight. https://t.co/7nVBqG2ZOD— Col. Doug Hurley (@Astro_Doug) April 21, 2020
“Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will go up as not just demonstration pilots for Demo-2, but they would actually become crew on-board the International Space Station for a period of months to do work, and they would continue to operate on the ISS. And then when we’re ready with the next Crew Dragon, they’ll come home,” NASA Administrator Bridenstine stated. The craft will stay docked for about two or three months to the station, then they will return to Earth aboard the spacecraft. Dragon is equipped with parachutes; it will conduct a parachute-assisted splashdown into the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Canaveral’s coast. It will be the first time SpaceX returns humans from space aboard its spacecraft. “We will do a full evaluation of the Demo-2 Crew Dragon, so we’ll be on Earth for about a month with the Demo-2 Crew Dragon just doing inspections and evaluations and making sure that it’s safe," Bridenstine said, "[...] Then when we make sure that it operated how we expected it to operate, we’ll be ready to launch right into crewed missions for normal operations."