For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – A pair of veteran NASA astronauts – Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken – flew to the Florida Space Coast and arrived this afternoon May 20 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to start the final preparations for the history making 1st launch of American astronauts in nine years atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket since the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011.
Exactly 1 week from today the history making launch on May 27 of the 1st ever commercial SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to carry humans – namely astronauts Hurley and Behnken – will take place from historic Launch Complex-39A at KSC on the Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station (ISS).
SpaceX Crew Dragon Demo-2 mission piloted by Hurley and Behnken will at last restore U.S. human spaceflight capabilities after a nearly decade long drought.
Hurley and Bencken flew aboard a NASA jet from their home base at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas and arrived here at the KSC shuttle landing facility at 4 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, May 20 – greeted with a brief welcoming ceremony with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and KSC Director and former shuttle astronaut Bob Cabana.
The veteran pair were also greeted by only a very small band of media allowed on base due to the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
“It’s just an honor to be back at the Kennedy Space Center,” said Hurley, who piloted the final Space Shuttle mission STS-135 in July 2011.
“Both Doug and I are really excited to be here,” said Behnken.
Prelaunch preparations are now in full swing for the historic 1st SpaceX crewed Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station (ISS) – that marks the restoration of America’s capability to launch American astronauts to Space from American soil on American rockets.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the Demo-2 test flight from historic Launch Complex 39A from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is slated for May 27 at 4:33 p.m. EDT for an extended mission.
Watch the astronauts arrive at KSC shuttle landing strip and press conference here with limited media
Welcome to @NASAKennedy – America's Spaceport and the doorway to space. At 4pm ET, @Commercial_Crew astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will arrive in Florida ahead of their historic mission #LaunchAmerica mission that lifts off on May 27. Watch: https://t.co/3xpneZRSBE
— NASA (@NASA) May 20, 2020
“We are on the cusp of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil yet again,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. “This is a tough time in American history, it is a tough time in world history,” referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He kept his distance from the astronauts and neither he nor Cabana shook hands with the crew as they normally would.
“In the 1960s, we had a war raging in Vietnam, we had protests, we had civil rights abuses. We had division in this country the likes of which were never seen before. And at the same time, NASA was able to unite not just the United States of America, but we were able to unite the world,” referring to the Apollo moon landings that inspired throngs globally.
Demo-2 will serve as an end-to-end test of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, paving the way for NASA to certify the system for regular crewed flights to the orbiting laboratory as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The specific duration of Demo-2 is yet to be determined said NASA officials at a May 1 briefing.
Demo-2 marks the first mission of a SpaceX Dragon to carry humans and the 1st crewed mission in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
And it marks a resurgence of US human spaceflight – coming on the heels of last week’s announcement of 3 contracts to develop human landing systems to once again land American astronauts on the Moon by 2024 under Project Artemis.
“This is a high priority mission for the United States of America. We as a nation have not had our own access to the International Space Station for nine years,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.
The Flight Readiness Review for the mission is planned for all day Thursday May 21, and will be chaired by Steve Jurczyk, NASA’s associate administrator . is now expected to take that role. The senior SpaceX rep is Hans Koenigsmann, vice president for Build and Flight Reliability.
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Commercial Crew and Artemis and onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Demo-2, Starlink, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events