SpaceX Launch 'Opens up the Doors' to Exploration, Astronaut Mike Massimino Predicts (Exclusive)

As the world prepares to watch SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule launch astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station Wednesday in what will be the first crewed space mission to be sent into orbit from U.S. soil since 2011, former astronaut Mike Massimino is thrilled to see what will come in the next major phase of the privatization of space travel.

Ahead of Discovery and Science Channel's Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space broadcast Wednesday, Massimino opened up to PopCulture.com about the importance of the historic launch with insight stemming from his spaceflight experiences on STS-109 Columbia in 2002 and STS-125 Atlantis in 2009.

"I am [thrilled]. Now that it’s getting close to happening, I'm getting more excited," the Columbia University professor told PopCulture. "It just feels right. I don’t know how to explain it — there’s something about launching from the United States that launching from some place else doesn’t have the same significance for American astronauts."

The days leading up to the launch have brought back "fond memories" of his own expeditions, Massimino explained, as he recalled trying to stay healthy and focused while spending as much time with approved members of his family while in pre-flight quarantine, as "you don't always know the outcome of these things."

With the SpaceX launch marking the first private company to send American astronauts into space, Massimino said everything that has happened up until now will fall under a whole different category than space exploration moving forward. "This is what the future is, and I think it's going to open up the doors to more exploration," he told PopCulture of the marriage between privatization and government resources.

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That absolutely will lead to space tourism, Massimino theorized, which once it gets past the hurdle of being overwhelmingly expensive, could eventually give people the experience of seeing earth through a whole new lens. "When I looked at our planet from above, the impressions I had were lasting," he said, explaining his view of earth from space has given him a much broader perspective on the "paradise" we call our planet. "No matter where we’re from we share the same home. ...I think that global perspective, maybe some people can get it while walking around on earth, but it really is something to be seen from space."

Massimino will provide his expert insight to Discovery and Science Channel's Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space, which kicks off at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, alongside fellow former astronaut Karen Nyberg, active astronauts Jessica Meir and K. Megan McArthur, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, and astronaut Chris Cassidy from the International Space Station. The live broadcast will also feature performances by superstar Katy Perry, Mythbusters star Adam Savage, former NASA engineer and YouTuber Mark Rober and other surprise celebrity guests. Space Launch Live: America Returns to Space, will take viewers inside the launch and is set to simulcast live Wednesday beginning at 2 p.m. ET on Discovery and Science Channel.