The US space agency, NASA, announced Friday May 22 that it has given the green light to launch a manned flight aboard a SpaceX rocket. Senior space agency and Elon Musk company officials have been meeting since Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to verify that everything is ready for the mission.
The Americans Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley will take off on May 27 at 4:33 p.m. (10:33 p.m. Paris time) aboard a Crew Dragon capsule, heading for the International Space Station (ISS) where they will moor the next day .
It will be the first 100% American manned mission since the end of the space shuttles in 2011, after thirty years of service.
For the past nine years, only the Russians have had space transportation, and dozens of international astronauts have learned Russian and traveled on Soyuz rockets from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, to the ISS, permanently occupied since 2000 by Americans and Russians.
Independent access to space
NASA has funded, since Barack Obama’s presidency, SpaceX ($ 3.1 billion in contracts) and separately Boeing ($ 4.9 billion) to give the United States independent access to space. The program was originally scheduled to take over from the shuttles in 2015.
A delay that Neil Armstrong, the first man to have walked on the Moon, already judged in 2010 “Humiliating and unacceptable”. In the end, the hole will have lasted almost nine years – provided that the SpaceX flight goes well.
Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken have been training for five years on the Crew Dragon capsule, during the ultramodern Apollo capsules of the 1960s. Inside, everything is controlled by touch screens. Like Apollo, Crew Dragon will return to land on Earth.
The SpaceX and Boeing companies will each have to travel six times for four astronauts to the ISS in the coming years, not counting the demonstration mission.
If SpaceX, founded in 2002 by then millionaire Elon Musk (he is now a billionaire), succeeded in this mission, called Demo-2 following Demo-1, which went off without incident in March 2019 with a model on board, it would become the first private company in space history to have transported astronauts to the ISS.