We Have Lift Off! SpaceX Takes US Astronauts to the ISS

 In Science

In the midst of a rough week elsewhere, two astronauts nicknamed “Dr Bob” and “Chunky” lifted off  at 3:22 p.m. from Cape Canaveral launch pad 39a and hurtled toward the International Space Station at over 17,000 MPH.  It was a flawless launch.

UPDATE: the space capsule, now named Endeavor by the two men piloting it docked safely with the ISS on May 31.

Air Force Col. Bob Behnken, 49, and retired Marine Col. Doug Hurley, 53 were the two astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon, as we previously reported. The capsule is “a sleek, modern vehicle with windows, touch screen control panels, and a large storage compartment.” (Closer to Star Trek, but not there yet.) Though the launch was scrubbed on its original date of May 27 because of the weather, it went off on May 30 without a hitch. The Commercial Crew Program has begun.

“We want to send all kinds of people to space. Everything we’re doing is to open that new chapter in the space age.” Benji Reed, director of crew mission management at SpaceX. 

National Geographic, where you can read more about the specifics of the Crew Dragon capsule,  reported,

“Behnken and Hurley had no need for the abort system today, as they safely separated from the Falcon 9 rocket while strapped into their seats aboard Crew Dragon about 12 minutes after liftoff. For much of the ride, Dragon will fly itself while the astronauts test equipment, such as the life-support systems and specially designed pressure suits. As Dragon approaches the space station, though, Hurley will take over and practice maneuvering the capsule manually—a crucial test of Dragon’s capabilities in case the vehicle’s autonomous rendezvous mechanism fails.

“This is a critical test flight,” says NASA’s Kathy Lueders, commercial crew program manager. “Bob and Doug are going to get to test fly the vehicle and check it out … and make sure that before it’s certified, the design is working.”

Dragon will autonomously dock with the ISS at approximately 10:29 a.m. on May 31, where Behnken and Hurley will join U.S. astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. The Demo-2 crew’s stay in space will last between one and four months, a duration that depends on both space station operations and the timing of the Crew-1 launch, currently set for late August.”

Russia has been charging the United States at least $75 Million every time we hitched a ride on their Soyuz rocket.

The Falcon 9 booster  came back to earth and landed safely on a drone ship in the Atlantic ocean. Precision at its best.

Spectacular failures at SpaceX have spurred them onward to create the successful launch of today. The Crew-2 will stay on board the International Space Station for an undetermined amount of time- from 1 month to four. But if the capsule ends up certified to take passengers on excursions into space, a new era will open up for the world.

“Today was just an amazing day. I can breathe a sigh of relief but I can also tell you that I’m not going to celebrate until Bob and Doug are home safely.” Jim Bridenstine, NASA

Featured photos: screenshots via NBC from NASA footage.


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