In a week, two NASA Americans will fly into space aboard a capsule designed by SpaceX.
NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley arrived Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida from where they will fly in a week to resume American human spaceflight after nine years of interruption, aboard a designed capsule by SpaceX.
“The road was long,” said Douglas Hurley, who participated in the last flight of the American Shuttle in July 2011. Since then, the Americans have been going to the International Space Station (ISS) exclusively on Russian Soyuz rockets, an addiction that the United States is anxious to break up.
The two men will launch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, tested with a mannequin last year, but never with humans on board. On May 27, a Falcon 9 rocket from the space company founded by Elon Musk will take off from the Kennedy Center to orbit the capsule, which will then dock with the ISS, where two Russians and one American are currently located.
“This is a great time to be an astronaut, to be able to fly in a new spacecraft,” said Robert Behnken at a press conference in Florida, where they arrived from Houston in a Nasa jet. The two teammates have been in quarantine since May 13.
An accelerated but risky calendar
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, who was unable to shake hands with them on arrival, repeated that it would be the fifth time in history only that a new American spacecraft would be launched after the programs Gemini, Mercury, Apollo and Shuttles.
But unlike these old programs, which cost tens of billions of dollars, NASA has established public-private partnerships, with SpaceX on the one hand, and the aerospace giant Boeing on the other. The space agency funded the development of each manufacturer’s capsules (that of Boeing’s called Starliner), but on the basis of service contracts guaranteeing six round trips each to the ISS, which limited public spending.
The launch on May 27 will be without the usual audience, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And the period is tumultuous for NASA, ordered by President Donald Trump to return to the Moon by 2024, in an accelerated but very risky schedule.
The boss of the human spaceflight program, Doug Loverro, also abruptly resigned Tuesday after only six months at his post, for an unknown reason but apparently linked to a tender for the lunar program, Artemis.
((AFP / NXP)
Posted today at 2:25 am