On May 27, 2020, a retired Marine Colonel and an active duty Air Force Colonel will take off in a US rocket from US soil for the first time in 9 years to head to space.
NASA’s Jim Bridenstine told reporters that they previously had to use Russian rockets and spacecraft to get to the International Space Station. But now, thanks to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon module, the US will once again be able to launch, and eventually dock with the ISS. It will be a first- the first time a rocket created and owned by a private entity will be used.
Air Force Col. Bob Behnken, 49, and retired Marine Col. Doug Hurley, 53 are the command crew that will lift off from the Kennedy Space Center launch pad tentatively scheduled for May 27.
Behnken flew twice aboard space shuttle Endeavour in 2008 and 2010, accumulating more than 37 hours in space walks.
Hurley flew aboard space shuttle Endeavour in 2009 and was the pilot for the last shuttle mission aboard space shuttle Atlantis in July 2011.
Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, and as such will be responsible for activities such as rendezvous and docking and undocking with the space station, NASA said. Hurley will be the spacecraft commander, responsible for launch and landing.
Before joining NASA, Hurley was a Marine Corps fighter pilot and test pilot. Behnken was a flight test engineer.
The Crew Dragon module will be carried into space on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:32 p.m. on May 27. Twenty-four hours later, the module will dock at the International Space Station to join the three astronauts already there. Originally the mission was only supposed to last two weeks.
The Smithsonian reported,
But the Crew Dragon spacecraft could stay in orbit for up to 110 days, and NASA says in a statement that “the specific mission duration will be determined once on station based on the readiness of the next commercial crew launch.”
The May 27 launch will be the first crewed flight, and final test flight, of the SpaceX system. The Associated Press’s Marcia Dunn reports that Dragon capsules have been carrying cargo to the space station since 2012, and in March 2019, SpaceX performed a successful test of the Crew Dragon spacecraft’s ability to autonomously connect with the ISS. A second Crew Dragon was destroyed during an abort engine test last April, causing a delay.
With the abort engine issue fixed, and a successful in-flight abort test this past January, the Crew Dragon is ready for lift off.
NASA has taken heat from those who are upset that the mission is listed as “essential.” The whiners – including a former NASA deputy administrator (appointed by Barack Obama in 2009) – are complaining that so many people are working to get this launch off the ground puts them at risk. They’ve got protocols and rules to keep everyone safe. But the boost to the country in the midst of the pandemic, and the reduction of dependence on Russian spacecraft make it an essential mission.
The next mission of the Crew Dragon will take 4 astronauts to the ISS, 3 Americans and one from Japan.
Godspeed, Crew Dragon.
Featured photo: The Crew Dragon module Left, Col Behnken, Right, Col Hurley (ret)