When NASA and SpaceX launch the Demo-2 crewed test flight from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, it will be the first time in almost nine years that American astronauts will be leaving earth from an American-made craft. However, when asked if he would attend the launch, President Donald Trump joked he would rather have journalists on the flight instead. The launch will be NASA's first crewed launch from the U.S. since 2011.
"I'm thinking about going, that’ll be next week, to the rocket launch," Trump told reporters outside the White House Thursday. "I hope you’re all going to join me. I’d like to put you in the rocket and get rid of you for a while." During the same gaggle with reporters, Trump confusingly said he tested "very positively" for the coronavirus, but really meant that he tested negative.
President Trump says he's "thinking" about going to the SpaceX rocket launch next week and tells reporters, "I'd like to put you on the rocket and get rid of you for a while" https://t.co/Nj065CIsxp pic.twitter.com/eNIIS3Jgox— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 21, 2020
On Wednesday, the Demo-2 mission will lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on SpaceX's Crew Dragon astronaut taxi, marking the first time a privately-made spacecraft will launch from there. It is also the first time in nine years that American astronauts will be going into space on an American-made craft, as they had to rely on Russia's Soyuz capsules since the space shuttles were retired. NASA had hoped the event would reinvigorate interest in launches from Florida, but that might be difficult due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"[The launch] was going to be a circus, both inside the fence and outside the fence, in the local community," Dale Ketcham, vice president for government and external relations at Space Florida, told Space.com. "Now, it will still be a big event simply because it can't be constrained, but obviously it's going to be substantially subdued." NASA said they do not want people traveling to the launch pads to see it in person, especially since it will be livestreamed.
Former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino told Fox News he still hopes the launch could be used as an event to bring people together in a time of crisis. "Launching astronauts from American soil is huge," Massimino, who flew on two space shuttle missions, said. "It really is a very historic time, it’s unfortunate that we’re doing it during the pandemic," he noted, adding that it is "always good timing for a shot of inspiration and good news."
The launch will air live on Discovery and Science Channels on May 27, with Mossimino providing commentary for the broadcast. The astronauts on the flight will be Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, notes Space.com. They will arrive at the Falcon 9 rocket in a Tesla Model X sports car, as the founder of SpaceX is also Tesla CEO Elon Musk.