Humans To Launch Into Space From America For First Time In Nine Years
On Wednesday, May 27, NASA will send humans into space from American soil for the first time in nine years.
The upcoming launch will see the test flight of SpaceX’s Demo-2, marking the first time a commercially built and operated rocket and spacecraft will carry people to the International Space Station.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will pilot the Crew Dragon spacecraft – launching on a Falcon 9 rocket – and it’s set for lift-off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Centre at 16:32 EDT (20:30 in the UK).
News of the launch comes as SpaceX founder and Tesla figurehead Elon Musk faces heat for dubbing lockdown measures as ‘fascist’ and ‘forcibly imprisoning people in their homes’. He also wiped $14 billion off of Tesla’s shares after writing that the ‘stock price is too high’ on Twitter.
Behnken and Hurley will enter a mandatory quarantine on May 16 ahead of the launch, with NASA taking even stricter precautions to shield them from the current outbreak. Six days prior to take-off, they’ll be flown to the space centre where they’ll remain in quarantine.
Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, said in a press conference:
We’ve had Bob and Doug here for training. We are ensuring that only essential personnel are near them. They’re wearing masks and gloves. We’re cleaning the training facility twice daily.
We are largely doing the same thing for our employees. We are nothing if our employees aren’t in great health and able to work with a clear mind and with a healthy system. So we’re taking temperatures. We’re wearing masks in public areas. We are social distancing as well. We’ve got at least half of our engineering staff working from home.
The launch, which will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website, marks the final test before the Crew Dragon is officially certified for human spaceflight. In a press release, NASA noted the flight will ‘provide valuable data’ as they ‘ready the hardware for the first rotational mission’.
Steve Stich, deputy manager for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, also said as per Al Jazeera: ‘Obviously with the pandemic, we are taking extra precautions for all the teams supporting the launch and all the phases of flight.’
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine added as per Ars Technica: ‘Boy, I wish we could make this into something really spectacular. But having large crowds of hundreds of thousands of people at the Kennedy Space Center, now is not the time for that.’
Following lift-off, the Crew Dragon spacecraft should take around 19 hours to catch up to and dock with the space station.
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