Anticipation and excitement at a fever over at Cape Canaveral, Florida, as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA prepare for their joint launch later today. This historic mission, known as the Demo- 2 mission, will feature SpaceX’s first-ever crewed spaceflight, ushering in a new era of space travel.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will be traveling to the International Space Station on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, lifting off on a Falcon 9 rocket at 4:33 p.m. EDT. In short, today will mark the first time a privately owned company took humans to the ISS.
Today’s mission from Launch Complex 39A in Florida is historic for another reason too. The Demo-2 launch will also make history as the first human-based rocket launch since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk is both equally excited and anxious about today’s launch. “I am the chief engineer of the thing. If it goes right, all credit goes to the SpaceX team, but if it goes wrong, it is my fault,” said Musk in an interview with CBS in the Morning.
“This is a culmination of a dream… a dream come true. In fact, it feels surreal.” Today could potentially open the flood gates to a more expansive private space travel sector and set the stage for Musk’s broader goal of getting humans to Mars.
NASA astronaut Robert Behnken will be the joint operations commander for the mission, while Douglas Hurley is the spacecraft commander for Demo-2. Each commander is in charge of specific tasks for the mission. Commander Hurley is responsible for the launch, landing, and recovery. Commander Behnken will tackle the rendezvous, docking, and undocking for the spacecraft, as well as any Demo-2 activities while docked on the ISS. Both Astronauts have completed previous space shuttle flights during their careers.
Next stop? The International Space Station
The two SpaceX passengers will be taking off from Launch Pad 39A, perfectly situated on the mighty Falcon 9. The rocket will accelerate to approximately 27,000 kph on its intercept course with the ISS until eventually docking. Though monitored heavily by the joint team, the spacecraft is designed to do everything autonomously.
Hurley and Behnken will then spend about 110 days on the ISS running tests on the Crew Dragon and conducting research with other members of the space station crew. After the mission is concluded, both astronauts will make their way back to Earth, undocking from ISS and splashing down in Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
Weather conditions at the moment are currently not ideal for the launch. If today’s event is canceled due to unfavorable weather conditions, the new launch dates will be May 30 and May 31.