CAPE CANAVERAL (CBSMiami) – One week from Wednesday will mark the dawn of the commercial age of space travel. That’s when Elon Musk’s SpaceX will fly two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are SpaceX’s inaugural crew. They will launch on the company’s reusable rocket, the Falcon 9 and command the maiden voyage of its new spacecraft, the Crew Dragon, to the space station.
Both men flew on space shuttles. Both have traveled twice before to the space station. Hurley piloted Atlantis there in 2011, the final flight of the shuttle program.
“It’s just completely different than what you would have ever imagined,” said Hurley about stepping into a SpaceX capsule.
Col. Hurley is also a retired Marine and a flight test pilot. In the air force, Col. Behnken was a flight test engineer.
Both joined NASA in 2000. They’ve been friends for two decades.
“It absolutely is a help. I think we’re way past the polite stage in our relationship,” joked Behnken.
“One characteristic I think we have in spades is we don’t quit. We don’t give up. And we like a big challenge,” said Hurley. “And by gosh, we certainly got one.”
They both met their wives in the NASA astronaut class of 2000. Behnken married Megan McArthur. Hurley married Karen Nyberg.
In 2009, McArthur’s robotics skills helped prolong the life of the Hubble Space Telescope. She and Behnken have a 6-year-old son, Theodore.
“We just try to talk to him as normally as possible about you know. ‘This is daddy’s job. This is mommy’s job. Dad’s gonna go and launch on a rocket and go to Space Station.’ So that it’s just kind of a normal thing for him to absorb,” said McArthur.
Nyberg, Hurley’s wife, has spent 180 days in space, including two trips to the Space Station.
“Apparently, her hair is still up there. I get reports all the time. She’s got long blonde hair and they are still finding it in filters up there,” said Hurley.
Hurley was then asked what it’s like to be married to other astronauts and launching into this new era of space exploration.
“The biggest thing is that we know how they’re going to feel on launch day,” he said. “And it is way harder on them to watch somebody that you care for get on a rocket and go fly than it is for those two guys on the rocket.”
On launch day Hurley’s son, Jack, will be watching. He drew a picture of his father’s spaceship.
“He hasn’t talked about being scared or nervous. He’s talked about how proud of his of his dad,” said Nyberg.
They’d all rather focus on potential rewards for America as a spacefaring country and as astronaut dads.
“I think the thing I’m most looking forward to is being able to share the experience with my son,” said Behnken. “I’m just excited for him to be able to see with his own eyes and experience it.”
Ten-year-old Jack and 6-year-old Theodore will both be there to watch their dads launch in person and that should give them a new appreciation for what dad and Mom do for a living.
According to Steve Herman, White House bureau chief for Voice of America, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will also attend Wednesday’s launch.
This will be the first time American astronauts will lift off from U.S. soil since 2011.