A SpaceX rocket is ready to take two NASA astronauts into space, the first launch of Americans from the country itself in nearly a decade.
The launch was scheduled for 4.30pm, from the same location at the Kennedy Space Center from where the man traveled to the moon and the last space shuttle took off in 2011. However, due to adverse weather conditions, it was cancelled.
«This is a great moment in time,» SAID NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine on the eve of launch. «It’s been nine years since we had this opportunity.»
The launch puts SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, on the cusp of becoming the first private company to put astronauts into orbit, something achieved by only three countries: Russia, the United States and China.
Board of SpaceX Dragon capsule van Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken. «We’re ready!» tweeted Behnken on Tuesday night.
NASA moved ahead with the launch despite the coronavirus pandemic, but asked the public to stay home to reduce the risk of contagion. Beaches and parks along Florida’s space coast are reopened.
The last time astronauts were sent from Florida was on the final flight of NASA’s ferry in July 2011. Hurley was the pilot of that mission.
Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, have twice traveled on ferries.
NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to bring astronauts to the space station, after they began carrying commercial cargo into space. However, the development of Boeing’s SpaceX and Starliner Dragon capsules took longer than expected, and in the meantime the United States was paying Russia to transport NASA astronauts.