President Donald Trump has officially spoken out on SpaceX Crew Dragon's failed liftoff. Trump was present for what was supposed to be a historic launch, but weather concerns caused SpaceX and NASA to delay until Saturday. In a tweet, Trump thanked both groups for all "their hard work," as well as their joint "leadership." He then stated that he plans to be back for Saturday's launch.
The SpaceX launch is the first-ever crewed mission for the commercial spaceflight company. It is also the first launch of NASA astronauts from American soil since 2011, when the space shuttle was retired. Wednesday's launch took place at the famed Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida. There was a concern about adverse weather, per CNN, but officials ultimately decided it was safe to hold the launch. The SpaceX rocket took off from "Pad 39A," an iconic launch site that has seen the start of numerous missions, dating all the way back to the Apollo era. This includes the 1969 moon landing mission. Currently, SpaceX is leasing "Pad 39A" from NASA.
The Crew Dragon team consists of two veteran astronauts: 49-year-old Bob Behnken, and 53-year-old Doug Hurley. The pair work for NASA, officially, but have worked closely with SpaceX in the collaboration. They specifically trained to be able to fly the Crew Dragon capsule. This is only the fifth spacecraft design that NASA has deemed safe for human travel. The previous four were the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle vehicles.
Both Behnken and Hurley started their careers as military test pilots, with each having logged hundreds of hours as supersonic jets pilots. Additionally, the two men also flew on previous Space Shuttle missions. Behnken and Hurley will pilot the Crew Dragon to the International Space Station, where they will spend one to three months, depending on how long it takes to get a second crew launched.
Former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver spoke about the Crew Dragon capsule saying "these are safer systems" than traditional space shuttles. "We do think of winged vehicles landing like an airplane, as something that was more futuristic than a capsule on top of a rocket," Garver added, per NPR. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine previously tweeted about the mission, writing, "We are go for launch! @SpaceX and @NASA will continue monitoring liftoff and downrange weather as we step into the countdown. We are proceeding toward a 4:33 launch." In a previous pre-launch briefing, Bridenstine called referred to the launch as "a big moment in time." He added, "It's been 9 years since we've had this opportunity."