Two NASA astronauts arrived on the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, one week earlier than they blast off aboard a SpaceX vessel — the primary crewed house flight to depart from US soil in 9 years.
US astronauts have been flying to the International Space Station (ISS) on Russian Soyuz rockets for the reason that shuttle program resulted in 2011 — a dependence they’re eager to interrupt.
“It has been a long road,” mentioned Douglas Hurley, who will likely be one of many astronauts and was additionally on the final shuttle flight.
He and astronaut Robert Behnken would be the first people to fly on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which was examined with a dummy final 12 months.
The Crew Dragon will take off from Kennedy with assist from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and dock on the ISS, which is presently housing two Russians and one different American.
“This is an awesome time to be an astronaut, with a new spacecraft,” Behnken mentioned throughout a press convention in Florida.
The two arrived in Florida on a NASA jet after being in quarantine since May 13 in Houston in an effort to guard themselves and people aboard the ISS from the novel coronavirus.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine — who kept away from shaking palms with the pair — reiterated that it was solely the fifth time in historical past that the United States would launch a brand new house flight program.
It is the primary program to be carried out as a public-private partnership – with SpaceX producing the Crew Dragon spacecraft and Boeing producing the Starliner.
To restrict public spending, NASA financed improvement of the spacecrafts however has signed contracts with the businesses to make sure six round-trip flights to the ISS.
In one other distinction from the earlier packages, the May 27 launch will happen with out the standard crowds of spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NASA is already below stress from President Donald Trump who has instructed the house company to return to the moon by 2024, accelerating an already dangerous enterprise.
The head of NASA’s human spaceflight program, Doug Loverro, abruptly resigned Tuesday after solely six months on the job, in a transfer probably associated to procurement of spacecraft for the Artemis lunar mission.