Ahead of the May 27 launch of NASA’s SpaceX flight, the crew members have reported to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to start final preparations for liftoff. NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley are slated to lift off at 4:33 p.m. EDT on May 27 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carried by a Falcon 9 rocket. Mind you! This is the first launch of American astronauts from the US soil to the International Space Station (ISS) since the conclusion of the space shuttle era in 2011.
Before the final liftoff, the Demo-2 mission will serve as an end-to-end flight test to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, from launch to docking to splashdown at the mission’s end. It is the final flight test for the system to be certified for regular, crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Expressing thankfulness for the opportunity, Behnken said. “We view it as an opportunity, but also, a responsibility – for the American people, for the SpaceX team, for all of NASA – who put this opportunity together and entrusted us with it.”
On the other hand, Hurley mention that he was one amongst the four astronauts who landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida almost nine years ago in T-38s on July 4, 2011 to close out the Space Shuttle Program.
Asserting that it’s incredibly humbling to start out the next [crewed] launch from the United States, Hurley said, “I also want to thank the incredible men and women of SpaceX that have put so many thousands of hours of work into this rocket and spacecraft. We’re looking forward to getting up close and personal with Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon in just a few days.”
While welcoming Behnken and Hurley as they stepped off the NASA Gulfstream aircraft at the runway’s parking apron, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who was accompanied with the center Director Bob Cabana, said, “This will be the fifth time in American history when we have launched American astronauts on a brand-new vehicle. We did it in Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, we did it with the space shuttles, and now we’re going to do it with a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule; and it’s these gentlemen that are going to have the opportunity to pioneer once more for the United States of America.”
With this, Cabana recalled the last time astronauts arrived to prepare for launch from Kennedy – the STS-135 crew, including Hurley, who piloted space shuttle Atlantis on the program’s final flight. “It’s been almost nine years since July 4, 2011. That’s the last time a crew flew into the landing facility on their way to space. I can’t tell you how great it is to welcome Bob and Doug here for this historic mission,” added Cabana.
(Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett)
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