CAPE CANAVERAL (CBSMiami) – The two astronauts who will text drive SpaceX’s brand new rocket ship and return human orbital launches in the U.S. spoke about the historic mission on Friday.
Retired Marine Col. Doug Hurley will be in charge of launch and landing. Air Force Col. Bob Behnken, a mechanical engineer with six spacewalks on his resume, will oversee rendezvous at the International Space Station.
They’ll end a nine-year launch drought for NASA when they blast off aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Florida.
Liftoff is set for Wednesday May 27. It will be the first time in nearly a decade, two astronauts will blast into orbit from American soil.
The two astronauts spoke remotely from crew quarters about their mission.
“We’ve longed to be part of a test mission, a test space flight, and Doug and I are lucky enough to get that opportunity going forward. So I would say it’s something we dreamed about, flying something other than a shuttle, the next vehicle,” said Behnken.
Their flight will mark the return of NASA astronaut launches to the U.S., the first by a private company.
Behnken and Hurley are longtime friends and veteran space fliers who have both been to the Space Station before.
Hurley piloted Atlantis to the ISS in 2011, the final flight of the shuttle program.
On Wednesday, they’ll ride to the Kennedy Space Center launch pad in a white Tesla, and say they are grateful to be together on this mission.
“I’m just thankful that doing something like this, doing it with Doug Hurley because he’s going to be prepared for whatever comes our way and he’s going to be prepared quickly so I couldn’t ask for more,” said Behnken.
“As far as Bob, there’s no stone unturned, no way he doesn’t have every potentiality thought about five times ahead of everybody else,” said Hurley.
On launch day, the astronauts anticipate not so much nervousness as a heightened awareness of “what can happen to you at any given point,” Behnken told reporters earlier this month.
Hurley considers a capsule a safe, “pretty tried and true” design. He particularly likes the Dragon’s launch pad-to-orbit abort capability to save a crew in an emergency, something NASA’s shuttles lacked.
Unlike shuttle, though, the Falcon 9 rocket will be fueled, a hazardous operation, with the astronauts already on board.
NASA is inviting the public to celebrate the milestone but with the coronavirus pandemic, launch parties will be virtual and are urging spectators to stay home.
Since 2011 NASA has relied on Russian rockets to bring astronauts to the space station. If the weather isn’t right for Wednesday’s launch the agency plans to postpone it until the weekend.