After a nine-year hiatus in human spaceflight, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), along with American aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, is set to launch their first crewed spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday (May 28).
Top NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will travel into orbit on Crew Dragon spacecraft designed by SpaceX in a mission, named Demo-2. The spacecraft will lift off aboard the Falcon 9 rocket at 2.03 am IST on May 28 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
While Behnken, the joint operations commander, will take care of activities like docking and undocking, Hurley, the spacecraft commander for the mission, will manage the launch of the spacecraft, its landing and recovery.
As US astronauts make their first manned mission in nearly a decade after the NASA shut down the country’s space shuttle program in 2011, it is the first-ever crewed mission for SpaceX, since the company was founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2002.
Since 2011, NASA had been spending around $80 million to send an astronaut into space on Russian rockets. So, it awarded SpaceX a $3.1 billion contract in 2014 to develop a capsule to ferry astronauts to the ISS. Two years later, SpaceX won another contract from the space agency to launch a NASA satellite.
“This is a new generation, a new era in spaceflight,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told the American media. “As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities,” NASA said. The space agency has not announced the duration of the Demo-2 mission.
Together with @SpaceX, we will return human spaceflight to American soil after nearly a decade. Tomorrow is not only a big day for our teams – it’s a big day for our country. https://t.co/DQ1Taz1vXU#LaunchAmerica pic.twitter.com/JT1zhQDKs2
— NASA (@NASA) May 27, 2020
Meanwhile, SpaceX founder Musk told CBS, “…if it goes right, it’s credit to the SpaceX-NASA team. If it goes wrong, it’s my fault.” He said making the mission was a dream come true and added, “If you’d asked me when starting SpaceX if this would happen, I’d be like ‘1% chance, 0.1% chance.”
Amid the global COVID-19 crisis, scientists had to carry out the final stages of the mission maintaining social distancing.
While US President Donald Trump is set to view the launch in person, NASA has planned to live stream the launch on its YouTube channel.