Just hours ahead of the SpaceX historic launch, astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley took a last pre-launch drive in a Tesla Model X. After getting suited up, the history-making duo, who will become the first astronauts to take off from U.S. soil in nine years, were seen getting into the vehicle, which was decked out with NASA logos, for a drive from the astronaut quarters out to the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center.
"This is what it's all about... the people. It's about the families. We're working together as one community to get @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug launching off to the cosmos, to the @Space_Station." — @Astro_Flow reflecting on the crew preparing to launch: pic.twitter.com/ieqoM2WqT7— NASA (@NASA) May 27, 2020
According to CNBC, following their arrival, Behnken and Hurley will strap into their seats in Crew Dragon, the SpaceX capsule that will carry them from the ground, into orbit, and to the International Space Station. They will begin checking that all systems are good to go, and, with just two hours until launch, the hatch to the spacecraft will be closed. Just a little more than 30 minutes ahead of launch, SpaceX will begin loading the rocket with fuel and will initiate a final series of processes and checks.
At 4:33 p.m., Crew Dragon will launch, though there is the possibility that the launch will be postponed due to weather. Given the chance of rain and thick clouds, the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing forecast Monday that the launch had a 40 percent probability. Should it be postponed due to weather, the mission has a back-up time scheduled for Saturday at 3:22 p.m. and again for Sunday at 3 p.m.
"They really hit the ground running... it's great, because we have a lot to get done." One of our @Commercial_Crew astronauts @VicGlover discusses his training for the Crew-1 mission following this #LaunchAmerica flight test: https://t.co/U1COQzFy4v pic.twitter.com/Rv1Mm8uFXF— NASA (@NASA) May 27, 2020
Should the launch go as planned, just minutes after liftoff, the boosters on the Falcon 9, the 230 feet tall reusable, two-stage rocket, will return to Earth and attempt to land on a barge stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile, after reaching orbit, Demo-2 “will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities,” according to NASA. Crew Dragon will then dock with the ISS, where Behnken and Hurley will become part of the crew.
The mission will become the first manned mission in nine years since the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched back in 2011. It will mark the first step in NASA's new phase as it works to end its reliance on Russian spacecraft to launch American astronauts to the ISS. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called it the beginning of "a new generation, a new era in human spaceflight."
Although the launch has already become all the buzz on social media, with many clamoring to see it in person, NASA has said that due to the coronavirus pandemic, “now is not the time” for large crowds and request “people not to travel to the Kennedy Space Center.” They instead invite people to “join us in this launch but do so from home,” as NASA will broadcast 24 hours of nonstop live coverage of SpaceX Demo-2, the broadcast beginning hours before liftoff.